Justitia et Pax (South Korea)
The Korean Catholic Justice and Peace Committee was founded on April 24, 1970. In 1975 this committee was reorganized as an affiliation of committees of the Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference. From this point onwards it has been an official organization of the Catholic Church.
On December 5, 1982 the Bishops’ Conference declared the second week of advent as human rights week. Every year, the Justice and Peace committee has sponsored programs commemorating human rights week.
The Committee works closely with community organizing groups including Catholic Farmers’ Movement, Young Christian Workers and the Urban Poor Pastoral Committee. The Justice and Peace Committee tries to solve problems that these organizations encounter. Some of the organizations’ members are members of the Committee so that they can effectively share information and cooperate successfully.
Presently the Justice and Peace Committee has 28 members, who have a two year term. The members hold regular monthly meeting with the bishop in charge. At these meetings information is exchanged, urgent problems are discussed, and resolutions are put into effect. Additionally, the Justice and Peace Committee has two general assembly meetings annually.
Their main activity is giving legal aid to prisoners of conscience. In Korea many people have been arrested and put under trial because of their insistence for autonomy and calls for democracy. Many were tortured, as well as illegally detained. The number of prisoners increased significantly through the eighties. Unfortunately the students who have been arrested in connection with the labour and student movement were also condemned by the state. After their arrests they were often forced to give false statements while under duress. To obtain the release of these prisoners, the Justice and Peace Committee tries to raise public awareness and sometimes directly negotiates with the authorities.