Eugene Cho

“a prayer of blessing to all those hands that put together the ipad that we’re about to enjoy”

At the usual risk of getting more angry emails, I’d like to write something about Apple, Foxconn, and the workers that make up their gadgets and for that matter, the workers that put together all of our gadgets from any and whatever company. This way, you know that this speaks to everyone.  For those that missed it or want a larger overview, the New York Times wrote an incredible piece entitled, “In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad.”

For gadgeteers, it should be obvious why I’m writing this today:

The new iPad is being released today. 

Millions upon millions will be sold. In fact, all the pre-sale inventory was sold out several days ago. The first person – globally – lined up a full week before the sale of the iPad. Every store will have droves of lines circled around the corner. It’s on everyone’s wish list – admitted or not admitted – perhaps with the exception of Bill Gates. I will confess that I’m also tempted to upgrade the original iPad that was gifted me couple years ago.

Globalization is complex.

Anyone that says otherwise is incapable of anything beyond simple thinking. It’s incredibly complex.

Now, let’s be clear: Apple didn’t create the ‘sweat-shop’ phenomenon. In its defense, you’ll hear hundreds upon hundreds of people in China that express their gratefulness for their jobs. Every day, several hundred folks are in line for new job openings in one of these infamous factories. There are certainly many critics but there are also ardent supporters. For example, this letter forces us to think:

My aunt worked several years in what Americans call “sweat shops.” It was hard work. Long hours, “small” wage, “poor” working conditions. Do you know what my aunt did before she worked in one of these factories? She was a prostitute.

Circumstances of birth are unfortunately random, and she was born in a very rural region. Most jobs were agricultural and family owned, and most of the jobs were held by men. Women and young girls, because of lack of educational and economic opportunities, had to find other “employment.”

The idea of working in a “sweat shop” compared to that old lifestyle is an improvement, in my opinion. I know that my aunt would rather be “exploited” by an evil capitalist boss for a couple of dollars than have her body be exploited by several men for pennies.

That is why I am upset by many Americans’ thinking. We do not have the same opportunities as the West. Our governmental infrastructure is different. The country is different.

Yes, factory is hard labor. Could it be better? Yes, but only when you compare such to American jobs.

If you’re an industry leader, be a leader in all things.

While jobs are created and more opportunities may arise as a result of Apple, we can’t simply celebrate Apple as the most “admired company” or “most valuable company” without scrutinizing or at least, wrestling, with the mostly verified reports of working conditions, overworked employees, numerous suicides, and the list goes on and on.

In 2006, the Mail on Sunday alleged that sweatshop conditions existed in factories in China, where the contract manufacturers, Foxconn and Inventec, operate the factories that produce the iPod.  The article stated that one iPod factory, for instance, had over 200,000 workers that lived and worked in the factory, with workers regularly doing more than 60 hours of labor per week. The article also reported that workers made around $100 per month and were required to live on the premises and pay for rent and food from the company. Living expenses (required to keep the job) generally took up a little over half of the worker’s earnings. The article also said that workers were given buckets to wash their clothes

In 2009 and 2010, Foxconn factories supplying iPhones, iPads and other devices have still come under fire in the press, with one source describing conditions as a “white collar prison”. In 2009, Foxconn guards were videotaped beating employees. Later in April 2010, four workers attempted suicide in a single month in the same factory. By May 2010, 12 workers had attempted suicide at a Foxconn operations in China. Apple, HP, and others stated that they were investigating the situation. In response to the suicides, workers were forced to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing that they would not kill themselves. It is not clear how employees who fail to abide by the terms of this agreement will be sanctioned. [via Wikipedia]

I don’t want to be the party pooper, the naysayer, the cynic, the wanna be prophet, or the Apple hater.

There are reasons why Apple is perceived as the most admire company. But since it’s the industry leader, we must hold them to higher standards. Or to put it another way: If you’re an industry leader, be a leader in all areas. That, simply, is one of the burdens of being the industry leader.

A Prayer of Blessing…

While this post isn’t intended to resolve the complexities of globalization or fix the issues with Apple and Foxconn, my hope was to give my readers a perspective or blessing and to in fact, say a blessing for all those factory workers.

Huh?

One of my favorite prayers is the prayer before a meal. During this prayer, we acknowledge our Creator and God’s provision; we acknowledge our family, friends, and community. In this prayer, I especially love this portion of the prayer:

“Bless the hands that have prepared this meal.”

I love this because it acknowledges our connectedness and gratitude to others – both within our homes and especially, outside of our homes. Through this prayer, I’m invited to consider the love (in some cases) and at least, the labor that goes into the preparation of the meals. Literally, the hands…

Just recently, Minhee and I were on a double date  at a local restaurant and in our friend’s prayer before the meal, she prayed a blessing for the “hands” – the unseen cooks that helped prepare our meals. There’s a certain dignity and humanity in acknowledging the unseen and saying a blessing for them. A genuine blessing that God would also bless and prosper them.

And so today, I want to say a blessing to the unseen and unnamed workers that have put together the millions of iPads (and other gadgets) that we all enjoy in some form or another:

God,

We are blessed beyond belief. Help us to understand that. And as we enjoy these blessings, convict us to be a blessing to others. Much has been given to us and much is to be expected.

May we not be lazy or apathetic consumers that simply drink, eat, and consume – without asking important questions. Help us to be mindful of your Kingdom’s values of mercy, justice, and compassion. Help us to be mindful so that we can be more deeply pursuant of your Kingdom.

As we enjoy our gadgets and our stuff, we say a prayer of blessing to the many hands that have put together these iPads and gadgets. While they are unseen and unnamed, we acknowledge that they, too, are your beloved. They are loved and seen by You. Reveal yourself to them. Reveal yourself to us. Remind us that they, too, are connected to You, and thus, to us.  Bless them. Prosper them.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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8 Responses

  1. […] “A Prayer of Blessing to all Those Hands That Put Together the iPad That We’re About to Enjoy” by Eugene […]

  2. seonghuhn says:

    Totally agree w/ you. But you might also want to know Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China was mostly fabricated. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2012/03/retracting-mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

    Doesn’t change the theme of your post but thought you might want to know.

  3. jchenwa says:

    Living in Asia, I know that Americans have a healthier sense of worth and freedom. The root of this is economics. Asia is just poorer. Asia don’t want to say it, but they’re poorer comparatively. But, I really believe that prosperity is from God. So, God rain down your love and shine your light, please send forth your word and workers to change and save Asia!

  4. […] it is important to consider all sides to this story and I thought I’d share a blog post by Eugene Cho (thanks Dad for bringing this to my […]

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One Day’s Wages

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First day of our daughter's college years at this great school. We love you. We're so proud of you.We believe in you. Go Huskies. Go Dawgs. And also, beat Stanford this Friday. As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it.

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