Korean Church group to deal with psychological trauma, low birthrate

New leadership of United Christian Churches of Korea announces series of humanitarian projects after the Itaewon tragedy

Pastors Kwon Soon-wung (left), Lee Young-hoon (center) and Song Hong-do pose during a press conference in Seoul on Jan. 12, held to announce humanitarian projects lined up for the United Christian Churches of Korea (UCCK) this year. (Photo: UCCK via Korea Times)

Published: January 16, 2023 11:16 AM GMT

Updated: January 16, 2023 11:24 AM GMT

An ecumenical Christian group in South Korea has launched humanitarian projects aiming at resolving key national issues such as falling birth rates and trauma care for disaster survivors and family members.

The United Christian Churches of Korea (UCCK), a national coalition of Protestant churches, announced the projects during a press conference on Jan. 12, the Korea Times reported on Jan. 13.

Lee Young-hoon, senior pastor of Full Gospel Church in Yoido and chair of UCCK said the group will establish a psychological trauma center for the recovery of survivors of scarring events and their families such as the Halloween stampede tragedy.

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“The new center will be dedicated to continuously counseling and treating those affected by the Itaewon tragedy and other disasters,” Lee said.

He further added that the inspiration behind the center was the recent Itaewon tragedy that killed nearly 160 people leaving hundreds of bereaved family members and traumatized survivors.

“We are working with teams of experts who ran a similar organization to aid the survivors after the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster,” said Lee.

The Sewol ferry disaster occurred on April 16, 2014, when the ship MV Sewol connecting Incheon to Jeju sank killing 304 of the 476 passengers which included Koreans commuting to work and school.

The new center is set to launch within the first half of 2023 in a joint initiative with the Yoido Full Gospel Church and the Korean Counseling Service Network.

The group has also decided to put an all-out effort to address the country’s rapidly declining birthrate.

UCCK aims to organize its committee and launch a joint state and church-level parenting and child support forum that covers everything “from financial support to childcare, housing, and education in general.”

The group has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy in December 2022.

The latest Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) data shows South Korea recorded the lowest of 20,658 live births in October 2022, dropping by 0.4 percent in comparison to 20,749 births in October 2021.

The agency reported the population of South Korea was 51.74 million in October 2021, which decreased by 0.2 percent (91,000 persons) from 2020.

The UCCK’s humanitarian initiatives also cover house-building activities for victims of wildfires in the eastern coastal county of Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province.

“It is meaningful that the construction of a total of 54 houses is centered on helping low-income households and people with disabilities,” Lee said.

The project is expected to be completed by March 2023.

The Uljin forest fire which occurred in March 2022 was one of the most devastating disasters in the country’s history.

The fire devastated an estimated 30,000 hectares of forest land that continued for nine days.

Local media reported the fire damaged 643 facilities including 319 houses and displaced an estimated 6,200 people.

The group’s humanitarian aid and projects extend to neighboring North Korea too, the officials stated.

The group said it would continue the construction of a cardiovascular treatment hospital in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and continue the tree plantation campaign in the region to protect the environment.

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