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Korean bishops pledge support for vulnerable children, youth

About 50,000 children and adolescents have run away from their homes due to abuse, violence, or neglect, say Korean police
Young South Korean students play in a center in the national capital Seoul in this file image. Thousands of children and young flee their homes to escape various forms of abuse and neglect.

Young South Korean students play in a center in the national capital Seoul in this file image. Thousands of children and young flee their homes to escape various forms of abuse and neglect. (Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP)

Published: May 16, 2024 11:02 AM GMT
Updated: May 16, 2024 11:41 AM GMT

South Korean Catholic bishops paid a visit to a Church-run facility for children and youth facing abuse and promised to continue the Church’s support for their well-being and a self-reliant future.

The delegation from the Korean Bishops' Conference visited Starflower in Incheon Diocese on May 9 and vowed to assist the children and youth to overcome their difficulties. 

Starflower has been a beacon of hope for children and youth who fled their homes to avoid various forms of domestic abuse. It offers them support to get education and skills training to settle down in life.

The meeting was arranged by the Committee for Pastoral Care of Youth of the national bishops’ conference.

The conference chairman Bishop Mathias Ri Iong-hoon of Suwon, Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon, and Bishop Pius Moon Chang-woo of Jeju were among the visitors.

Other delegates included Bishop Simon Kim Ju-young of Cheongju, Bishop Simon Kim Jong-Gang of Cheongju, and Bishop Titus Seo Sang-Beom of the Military Ordinariate of Korea.

Bishop Kim of Cheongju said it “was a good opportunity to meet with the youth on the edge and ponder the issues.”

“It is important for the church to play a pastoral role in the face of Korea's serious youth problems,” he added.

Starflower’s director Father Song Wonsup appraised the bishops of the various challenges faced by the youth in their path towards self-reliance.

According to the National Police Agency, in South Korea, an estimated 50,000 children and adolescents have run away from home due to abuse, violence, or neglect.

Many of these children wander along cafes, and other places to make a living, and often turn to crimes such as internet fraud and illegal gambling. Sexual exploitation of minors is the most common victimization.

“At Starflower, we protect young people separated from their families and support them to continue their education,” Song said.

“However, the emotional and psychological wounds are not easily healed, so we also provide therapy,” Song added.

He pointed out that the youth are trained to earn their living, pay their bills, handle banking and real estate matters, and learn the basics of independent living such as cooking, washing, and cleaning at a young age.

Song said that the youth are given a second chance even if they fail to achieve their goals.

Peter Song Ki-ju, 24, a young man who came to Starflower at the age of 18, works at the café and is preparing for a job. He hopes to carry forward the lessons of kindness and care that he has received.

He has earned various certifications, including a barista’s license, a brewer's license, a hairdresser's license, and a cosmetic care-related trade license.

"I dream of becoming a caring person like the priests, giving my younger siblings pocket money," Song said.

This report is brought to you in partnership with the Catholic Times of Korea.

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