[EDITORIALS]Don’t focus on the fatherProsecutors have concluded a one-year investigation into Kkottongnae (Flower Village), the largest private social welfare facility in Korea, indicting without detention five persons, including Catholic priest Oh Wung-jin. Father Oh is charged with eight crimes, including embezzlement, fraud, violation of the law governing state subsidies and the farmland law, and defamation.
The prosecution says its investigation is based on evidence, but in view of the fact that Father Oh has refused to comment on his case since he was summoned to the prosecution and that court proceedings have not begun, it is premature to say Mr. Oh is guilty or not guilty. But we, who have witnessed Father Oh’s philanthropic activities, which started with providing shelter to a sick beggar in 1976, feel bad seeing all his social dedication end up like this. We regret our society finds it difficult to have respectable figures.
The culture of making donations and social contributions that has recently started to take root in Korea should not suffer because of this incident. In the Flower Village, there are 2,200 people who need shelter and protection. For those who cannot take care of themselves, the helping hands of volunteers are badly needed.
As news of the investigation spread, the number of volunteers, who had put in 700,000 man-days, decreased drastically and many people stopped sending donations. This is because people identify the Village with Father Oh. But they have to remember that taking care of those at Kkottongnae who are too weak to beg for their food, is what we, who can earn a living, should do.
This should also be an occasion to establish a framework for making social contributions. There were 253 social welfare facilities in Korea as of 2001. Transparency in the management of donations must be attained to recover the confidence of benefactors. By changing contradictory laws and conventions, we can make another Father Oh less likely. The Ministry of Health and Welfare should minimize fallout from the Flower Village incident by revising regulations on record keeping by social welfare facilities.