Priest caricatured the South Korean president and his wife falling from presidential aircraft
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol looks at messages of mourners at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the deadly Halloween crowd surge, outside a subway station in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on November 1, 2022. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)
A Catholic bishop in South Korea has banned a priest from public ministry following public outrage over recent social media posts which included caricatures of President Yoon Seok-yeol and First Lady Kim Kun-hee falling from an aircraft.
Bishop Augustinus Jong-soo Kim of Daejeon diocese also apologized for “the hurt and shock that many people” suffered because of the “inappropriate words and actions” of Father Park Joo-hwan, a diocesan priest.
The priest is also suspended from carrying out public ministries such as Mass and confession, Bishop Kim said in a statement published on Nov 15 on the diocesan website.
“Father Park Joo-hwan will have time to deeply reflect and introspect himself for a long time,” said the statement.
Father Park shared combined images on Nov 12 of President Yoon and his wife falling from the presidential plane, in a now-deleted Facebook post.
The images also included a picture of a child praying with the words: “it was a simple accident due to a glitch defect, and it’s not anyone’s fault.”
Father Park told a South Korean news agency that he wanted to “express public discontent” in the wake of the Itaewon stampede disaster that killed at least 158 people and injured 196 last month.
The priest said he was “embarrassed by the attention” his cartoon-like post had attracted.
Bishop Kim said Father Park’s “post was clearly against the teachings of the Catholic Church … it is clear that they [the pictures] are not the public position of the Church.”
Father Park also posted another incendiary post a day earlier accusing police of inaction and failing to prevent the Itaewon disaster.
Media reports said Father Park also reposted on Nov 10 a bus crash story from a Chinese online community with the text: “I just thought that this bus might be Air Force One,” referring to President Yoon’s aircraft.
Father Park removed the posts following widespread public outrage, but without issuing any formal apology.
Bishop Kim’s statement said Father Park has “knelt down and confessed of the great mistake he committed against the Church and the people.”
In another incident, an Anglican priest was removed from public ministry after he published a social media post urging the entire South Korean population to pray for President Yoon’s aircraft to crash.
Reverend Kim Gyu-don was removed from public ministry on Nov 14 by his Bishop Yu Nak-jun of Daejeon diocese of the Anglican Church of Korea, reported the Korea Joong Ang Daily news website.
Lawmakers expressed outrage about the clergymen’s posts.
“How can they be called clergymen when they make public such foul rhetoric and curses? I was in a state of shock yesterday,” said Joo Ho-young, a People Power Party (PPP) lawmaker during a party meeting at the National Assembly on Nov. 15.
“I couldn’t believe priests would do something like that,” Ho-young said.
As of January 2019, Daejeon Catholic diocese, based in Daejeon Metropolitan City, has some 142 parishes, 383 priests, and 330,000 believers.
A suspension is a censure according to the Catholic Church’s laws and it suspends a cleric’s power of governance or clerical rights and public functions. The suspension is revoked when the censored person shows remorse.