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austraLasia #3234


Gangnam style turns serious:  Salesians open Dream Youth Centre
Seoul's new style oratory in cooperation with local government

SEOUL: 15 June 2013 -- 'Gangnam', which actually means 'south of the river' in Korean (the river Han, in this case, which divides the city) is not just a funny dance. It is an icon of the rapid economic development that took place in Seoul and elsewhere in the country in the 1970s and 80s. It is a place where people are wealthy, the girls are pretty and everything is supposed to be cool. But is that true for many young people who live there, and for that matter, anywhere in Seoul? City Hall, Seoul, was not so convinced, and invited the Salesians to bring their style and expertise to bear on the burgeoning 'youth problem' of the secular and consumerist society that Gangnam represents.

I hope all the young people in this Centre have a feeling of being loved more than they have felt elsewhere and, with this experience, achieve their dreams in life as well as growing up to be upright citizens and good human beings. It is enough that you are young for you to be loved so much”. With this greeting from Fr Stephen Nam, Provincial of Korea Province, the opening ceremony for the Seoul Youth Dream Centre began in the presence of 400 people including SDBs, members of the Salesian Family, City Hall officials, youth leaders, youngsters. On 13th June, at 3 pm to be precise, and after a long and challenging preparation process, finally the SYDC was a reality. 

The SYDC is located in the most developed zone in Seoul city, Gangnam-gu, a district by now made famous by 'Gangnam style'.

It was February of 2012 that Seoul City Hall decided to entrust to the Salesians the management of the nascent SYDC. But local government had not yet defined its exact purpose nor how it was to be operated as a service to young people. At that point they merely had in mind creating a youth centre that would be somewhat different to the norm. But once the Salesians had taken up management responsibility for the project, they appointed three confreres well-qualified in the field of youth ministry to take on the roles of Director, Secretary and Program manager. Committing themselves fully to their new responsibilities, they established a vision and mission for the Centre and set up a broader management team with some 20 lay collaborators fully qualified in their field, such as the various youth activities, counselling, group dynamics... From last September, in fact, a number of programs had already been set in motion for young people who had left home for one or other serious reason. The new Centre began offering them somewhere to sleep and eat, as part of the remodelling of the building that had previously been used as a medical centre. The medical centre and its staff have shifted to a suburb of Seoul.

SYDC, described as a 'comprehensive youth centre', has been designed by the Youth Affairs Department of Seoul City to effectively respond to the diverse demands of today's youth. The new Dream Youth Centre occupies two floors of a seven-storey building, for a total of 6500㎡, and offers  multiple youth activities such as after-school and weekend youth programs, aptitude and career exploration programs, group activities, counselling, educational certificate programs, a shelter, alternative school programs, as well as a sexuality culture program for youth. This range of services is offered as a 'one-stop operating system', or in other words, is conceived as a new type of Valdocco Oratory for the modern city dominated by strong secularism and consumerism. 

The Salesians can now bring their 60 years of experience in the field, carrying out a variety of youth ministries in Korea, to city youth who are especially poor and most in need, either because they have been turned out of home or are profoundly in need of solid values.

And that is the view, too, of the city authorities. The First Deputy Mayor, Seoul Metropolitan, Mr Kim Sangbeom, who officially represented the City at the opening ceremony had this to say. "We know very well that for youth work we need people who love young people and know how to engage them. It is not just a question of policy or a good project or even whether the money is available or not. We need leaders who are totally dedicated to young people. So we want to thank the Salesian Society who gladly accepted our request to take on responsibility for this SYDC. They are famous for their ability in the field, and have shown this in the way they have established and given life to this Centre. I would like to ask you in the name of all the citizens of Seoul to make yourself the friends and teachers of youth in difficult situations so their lives can achieve their dreams and so they may overcome barriers with the strength that comes from your accompaniment".

In reply, Fr Joseph Na Hyengkuy, and now Director of SYDC, and who has just completed his doctorate in Social Welfare in Sydney, Australia, said: "We want to express our deep appreciation to everyone present who has given us much courage to share our lives with the young in need. And we assure you all that with our wide experience and our Salesian network, we will work together with you for the dreams of Korea's youth".

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