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Card. Yeom celebrating the annual spring Mass for Catholic congressmen. Card. Yeom celebrating the annual spring Mass for Catholic congressmen. 

Card. Yeom: every human life from conception is noble, honourable, dignified

South Korean Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung has reiterated the Church’s pro-life stand against abortion and the death penalty.

By Robin Gomes

A prominent Church leader in South Korea has reiterated the Catholic Church’s stand against abortion and the death penalty saying human life is noble, honourable and dignified from the moment of conception.

Embryonic life

“What we should do is to accept every life as it is from the moment of conception under the responsibility of both father and mother at the same time. Moreover, given that every life is under the common responsibility of our society, we should try to improve the overall social welfare system to support parents to give birth and raise their children,” said Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo- jung , Archbishop of Seoul.   

He was addressing the Youth Pro-Life Rally in the South Korean capital on March 16.  Some 1,000 Korean youth and Church leaders, including Card. Yeom and Apostolic Nuncio to Korea Archbishop Alfred Xuereb participated in the rally that was organized by the Committee for Family & Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) in cooperation with the Organizing Committee for March for Life Korea. 

Earlier on March 14, during the annual spring Mass for Catholic congressmen, Card. Yeom stressed Church’s commitment to life, saying that babies should be “protected and respected as independent beings” from their embryonic stage, and not be “regarded as possessions of either mothers or fathers”.  “Human dignity,” he stressed, “cannot be decided by the majority vote or judged by socio-economic standards.”

Death penalty

The 75-year old cardinal also commented on the death penalty.  Recalling the message of Pope Francis to the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty held recently in the European Parliament in Brussels, the cardinal said, “Human life is the most important and fundamental gift, which is a source of all human rights.”  “The death penalty is a serious insult and sin to this fundamental right to life for everyone.”  The Pope urged all political leaders and government associates to take steps to completely abolish the death penalty in each country.

The cardinal’s message to the nation’s lawmakers reiterated the Church’s position on the sensitive issues of abortion and the death penalty that are growing increasingly controversial in Korean society today.

South Korea is awaiting the Constitutional Court’s decision on the current law on the death penalty.  The CBCK’s Subcommittee for Abolition of Death Penalty in Committee for Justice & Peace filed a constitutional appeal in February calling for the abolition of the death penalty. 

In 1996 and 2010, the Court had ruled that the death penalty does not violate the South Korean constitution.

Abortion

While the Constitutional Court is also expected to announce its decision on the constitutionality of the abortion law early next month, voices in support of legalizing it are growing. 

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea on Monday submitted a statement to the Constitutional Court saying that criminal penalties for women who undergo abortion , as well as doctors who perform them, are unconstitutional.  It said the current law on abortion violates the right to self-determination.

According to an online survey conducted last year by the state-run Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs,  some 50,000 abortions were reported in 2017, about one-third the number reported in 2010, which stood at 168,738.

Of the 756 women who said they have had at least one abortion, 33.4 percent said they decided on abortion for the sake of their career or studies. Another 32.9 percent cited financial instability, and 32.9 percent said the pregnancy had gone against their family plans.

The Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists presented a different picture.  It estimates that some 3,000 abortions are performed daily, far more than government figures.

20 March 2019, 17:41