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A Call for Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula

Ecumenical leaders and delegates from South Korea gather to develop an ecumenical “Call for Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.”
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, Wisconsin Annual Conference, prepares participants for communion. He uses bread made of corn flour from North Korea and white flour from South Korea.
Melissa Hinnen

By Melissa Hinnen

“Wherever you go and whatever you may face, remember to pray to God and we will see each other in our prayers.”

These were the last words that 19-year-old Syngman Rhee heard from his mother as he fled Pyongyang, North Korea, in 1950. Rhee, the former president of the National Council of Church US, was a keynote speaker at the Ecumenical Korea Peace Conference recently in Atlanta.

United Methodist Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference chaired the conference, building on the theme “Embrace Peace; Pursue It: From Armistice to Just Peace in Korea.”

More than 130 participants representing 10 denominations and including 22 delegates from South Korea worshipped and prayed, engaged in workshops, and came together to develop an ecumenical “Call for Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Jung preached about the need for people of faith to be peacemakers saying, “God wants us to be creative to move forward and materialize the reality of peace. We remember the suffering of those who went through the war and are divided. We rely on God to work on this path of peace. We are not alone.”

Stories of painful family separation like Rhee’s were recalled by numerous people during the three-day gathering and images of reunification were integrated into the event.

During the opening service, seeds were planted in flower boxes on the altar and water from North and South Korea was poured on them. The communion bread was made from corn flour from North Korea and white flour from South Korea.

Bishop Mary Anne Swenson who is the ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops described a cross she saw when she visited Korea. “The vertical wood on the cross was from the highest point in North Korea and the horizontal wood was from South Korea . . . the cross was a prayer for peace and reconciliation,” she said.

Answering Fear with Love

A foundational understanding at the conference was that the Korean War Armistice of 1953 did not end the Korean War. Without a peace treaty, the United States and North Korea continue to be technically in a state of war. Policy analyst Christine Ahn noted that the recent tension on the Korean Peninsula “makes clear just how fragile the temporary armistice agreement actually is.”

Ahn said that when the United States deployed nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers over South Korea, “we held our breath.” Her cousin anxiously wrote to her from 50 miles northeast of Seoul, “We know that at any moment fighting can break out.”

Likewise, in a workshop on denuclearization, Jong Sun Noh, professor emeritus at Yonsei University in Seoul said, “The B-2 bombers were less than an hour from my home. What if there had been an accident?”

Confronting fear is a vital part of peacemaking said the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Christians are well equipped to do this, she said, because, “Our understanding of the incarnation tells us that God’s own self yearns for reconciliation.”

She continued, noting “The incarnation means that the ones we would exclude must come to be seen as essential to our own flourishing and we to theirs . . . we must discover that our lives and salvation are bound up together.”

The Path to Peace

Jong Sung Kim, an executive at the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries led delegates in developing an ecumenical call for peace and reconciliation. He said he was, “proud to be following in the steps of elders. It is important that we continue in the ongoing process in our journey together as a community of God.”

In the closing communion sermon Bishop Jung said, “Those before us lay the path for us to be peacemakers. God’s grace is with us and God has helped us plant this seed for the future.”

The conference was sponsored by the United Methodist Korean American National Association Committee on Korean Reunification & Reconciliation; United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries; United Methodist Women; United Methodist Korean Ministry Plan; National Network of Korean United Methodist Women; and the National Council of Churches, Korea. The conference was May 15-17 at Korean United Methodist Church of Atlanta.

Below is the call for peace that was developed and affirmed at the conference:

A Call for Peace & Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula

Christ is our peace. As our Lord Jesus Christ broke down the walls of hostility that divide God’s people, we too are called to the ministry of reconciliation and peacemaking (Ephesians 2: 14-16). For too long, the Korean people have been divided and suffered from political brinkmanship, the wall of ideology, and the scourge of militarism.

The Armistice Agreement of 1953 only temporarily halted the war that claimed 4 million lives and divided 10 million families. This lingering state of war on the Korean peninsula is a major contributor to tension and instability, both regionally and globally, and contravenes the spirit of the United Nations Resolution 39/11 which recognizes a people’s right to peace.

We Christians of different communions, gathered together in the common cause of peace, are deeply concerned about the growing tensions on the Korean peninsula over recent nuclear testing in North Korea and U.S.–South Korea joint military exercises.

We join with the Korean people, both in North and South Korea, in yearning for reconciliation, reunification and sustainable peace. Replacing the Armistice Agreement with a Peace Treaty is and should be the first step in establishing a lasting and sustainable peace on the Korean peninsula.

In support of the Korean people and in cooperation with ecumenical partners, we call on ourselves and all who desire to embrace and pursue peace to engage in the following actions to achieve a just peace on the Korean peninsula:

  1. Engage in prayers of penitence and petition with the Korean people, scarred and pained by the division of the nation; and support the efforts of the National Council of Church in Korea (ROK), and the Korean Christian Federation (DPRK) for reconciliation, peace and reunification.
  2. Urge both North and South Koreas to resume talks and economic cooperation, including immediate reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Kumkangsan Tourism.
  3. Urge the United States, South Korea, North Korea and all stakeholders involved to immediately resume dialogue and negotiations to establish a Peace Treaty eliminating the threat of nuclear and conventional war thereby establishing an enduring peace on the Korean peninsula and the world.
  4. Urge the U.N. Security Council to end economic and commercial sanctions, the U.S. and South Korea to cease all military exercises, and North Korea to stop hostile actions in the pursuit of peace.
  5. Continue to provide humanitarian support and economic development efforts for North Korea.
  6. Engage in ecumenical initiatives including the following:
  • Pray, support and participate in the National Council of Churches in Korea’s 2013 Peace Train, an affiliate event of the 2013 World Council of Churches Assembly being held in Busan, South Korea.
  • On July 27, 2013, launch a campaign to gather 1 million signatures for a Korea Peace Treaty petition.
  • Proclaim July 27, 2014, as “Korea Peace Sunday.”
  • Hold a Korea Peace March in Washington, D.C., in 2014.
  • Bring an Ecumenical Peace Delegation to North and South Korea in 2015.
  • Work to ensure the adoption of the Korea Peace Treaty statement and other efforts in pursuit of Korea Peace are supported and affirmed by each of our respective denominations and churches.

Download Ecumenical Korea Peace Statement here. (link to PDF)

Melissa Hinnen is the director of content and public information for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.

The Older Adult Choir, Korean Church of Atlanta, UMC, leads conference participants in worship.
The Older Adult Choir, Korean Church of Atlanta, UMC, leads conference participants in worship.
Melissa Hinnen

In a move toward reconciliation, a musical sentiment of peace compliments the ambience of the conference. Here, a woman plays the Gayageum, a Korean traditional string instrument.
In a move toward reconciliation, a musical sentiment of peace compliments the ambience of the conference. Here, a woman plays the Gayageum, a Korean traditional string instrument.
Melissa Hinnen

Myung Rae Kim-Lee, executive director, National Network of Korean United Methodist Women, in a moment of prayer.
Myung Rae Kim-Lee, executive director, National Network of Korean United Methodist Women, in a moment of prayer.
Melissa Hinnen