SYMPOSIUM ON PEACE AND REUNIFICATION IN KOREA
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
24 JULY 2017
The Korean peninsula was, for centuries, one unified territory and one people sharing the same language and essential culture. Yet for the last six decades and more, North Korea and South Korea have been divided along a fortified Demilitarized Zones. This divisive story begins with the Japanese conquest of Korea at the end of the nineteenth century. The Empire of Japan formally annexed the Korean Peninsula in 1910. Thus, from 1910 until 1945, Korea was a Japanese colony. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Many of the victims were Korean settlers in Japan. Two days later, the Soviet Union declared war against Japan, and invaded Manchuria. Soviet amphibious troops also landed at three points along the coast of northern Korea. On August 15, after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender, ending World War II. Japanese forces in northern Korea surrendered to the Soviets, while those in southern Korea surrendered to the Americans. Without consulting any Koreans, they arbitrarily decided to cut Korea roughly in to half. In the end, the US essentially appointed the anti-communist leader Syngman Rhee to rule South Korea. The South declared itself a nation in May of 1948. Meanwhile, in North Korea, the Soviets appointed Kim ll –Sung, who had served during the war as a major in the Soviet Red Army, as the new leader of their occupation zone. In 1950, Kim Il-sung decided to try to reunify Korea under communist rule. He launched an invasion of South Korea, which turned into the three-year Korean war; it killed more than 3 million Koreans, but the two countries ended up back where they started. This imposed division of North and South Korea continue to haunt the world, and the 38th parallel remains arguably the tensest border on the Earth. This unstable ceasefire situation has prevailed on the Korean peninsula – a situation of neither peace nor war. This has created great pain and agony associated with the division of individuals and families who are separated from their homeland for more than 64 years.
This present situation in the Korean peninsula prompts us to a renewed engagement in efforts to work for peace and justice throughout the region and for the reunification of a divided Korea.
Indeed, inter-government actions, private business and peoples’ initiatives for reunification and restoration in the in-between time have not been wanting. Movements, proposals and real experiments included sharing of resources for better production to help build the economies of the peninsula, providing opportunities for development of peoples, disarmament and denuclearization. Communication technologies have been used to bring the divided people together. Faith-based communities provided a spiritual underpinning for unification, restoration and peace in the Korean peninsula.
In this context of imposed division and initiatives for reunification and peace, we firmly believe that peace-building in a globalized and interdependent world is a shared responsibility of sovereign states, the United Nations and civil society groups including the churches and the ecumenical organisations. Affirming the Christian calling to be peacemakers and responding to the faith witness of the Korean churches, we the members representing WACC - Asia gathered in Seoul, Republic of Korea for the Symposium organised by Peace Land Mission from 24th July 2017, affirm the following:
Faith commitment: A biblico-theological Affirmation
The primordial story of creation (Gen 2:4-3:24) describes the conversation between God and humanity’s first parents. This conversation serves to correct and put in proper perspective the historical conflicts experienced by humanity over land, nationhood and nation-states and the discovery of human dignity and freedom, of human rights and integrity of creation, of peace. It describes humanity talking to itself, communicating to its innermost self as man and woman. In the course of that shared self-reflection as man and woman, as community, they discover their conscience and the voice of God: God’s self-revelation, God’s self-communication. For God has called us to be a community, to a unity, to that communion with God, with one another and with all creation. Thus, it has never been humanity’s vocation to be voiceless victims of the violence of egoism, social injustice and national oppression, of foreign occupation and neo-colonial domination and plunder of creation. God’s self-communication is the basis of our fundamental communication rights where peace and peace-building begin. By asserting communication rights, humanity reclaims that original wholeness with God, with one another, with being a nation, with all creation, with genuine peace!
The stories of the Divided Kingdom (1 Kgs 14:1-ff) affirm the right of the oppressed to revolt against a government formed and run by elite usurpation of power. They also show how international alliances between the poor and the rich nations result in the consequent colonization of the poor nation by the rich nation. “Concentration of wealth disperses people; distribution of wealth collects people” (Confucius). The oppression of the people by their local elite and foreign powers reveals to the prophets the insightful counsel of Yahweh: no one has ever become rich without taking advantage of the other, making the other poor and marginalized (Amos 8:4-6). The reforms of Ezra-Nehemiah show that national freedom seems to be a pre-requisite for a nation to socially form a cohesive community, to be economically productive and to socially prosper together.
Resistance to persecution under the Temple and State conspiracy in Rome (Mark), the call for a new universal social order with a new ethic based on the beatitudes from Jesus, the only Teacher (Matthew), the historical unfolding of salvation that includes the revolutionary project of common property and shared resources under the principle of “from each according to his ability and to each according to his due” (Luke-Acts), and the Incarnation of the Word among the poor and the marginalized who by their projects of liberation and transformation are the real miracle workers (John) – all of these are essential elements constitutive of the Reign of God. God is communicating to us his/her saving will. We are called to communicate to one another the deepest desire of our hearts as identical with God’s gracious design for his/her people and creation. The one Korean people artificially and violently forced to separate from each other must re-capture this self-communication of God and their self-communication to one another. They must assert their communication rights in order to re-establish their primordial and ideal communion and prophetically expel the forces that suppress these fundamental rights.
The Korean people of the North and the South are first and foremost citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20), heirs of God’s Reign and inheritors of the same gift of land destined for all, and only secondarily of any artificially and violently-made nation on earth. The Korean minjung are the Word-made-flesh in our time, no matter how fragile, how imperfect, how sinful they may be in need of God’s love and liberating mercy, justice and compassion.
With them, we are minjung too. And so, we rise with them in this ongoing project of reunification, restoration, reconciliation and healing for the sake of peace in the Korean Peninsula
Thus, with the Korean minjung,
An integrated approach by adopting positive polices towards unification of Koreas
New tensions are arising with the intensified political, economic and military presence of the United States in the region; and three other “power poles”, China, Japan and Russia, are also active in this region. There are even signs of an emerging “new Cold War”, as the geopolitical map of North East Asia shows new shifts in the balance of power. In order to overcome this situation we seek the cooperation of all the countries who are involved in this region to strive towards an unconditional withdrawal of their bases from this region in order to enable the Koreans to have peaceful dialogues to solve their own problems.
Also we lament our failure to adequately acknowledge with compassion the Korean people’s long suffering and struggles. With this confessional lamentation, we join in firm commitment with the Christians of Korea, both North and South, especially in Korean churches’ faithful actions to work towards peace, healing, reconciliation and reunification of their people and their land. Towards this we strive for determined actions to increase the cooperation among our organisations in the spirit of the Brussels Conference which laid the foundations forty four years ago for an international movement of solidarity with the Korean people for reunification and peace in Korea,
We are conscious of the fact that the prevailing geo-political context of the Korean peninsula warrants that the ecumenical movement develop new ways of accompaniment and engagement. As WACC has been a global/Asian ecumenical body accompanying the churches and people in the Korean peninsula in their struggle to achieve peace with justice and reconciliation, and reunification of the divided Korean peninsula, it is imperative for her to exert every effort to continue providing common platforms for both North and South Korean churches to meet together, with particular focus on younger generations.
Fresh and decisive action is required to enact a peace treaty. A process towards a peace treaty is crucial for the Korean peninsula and in the entire North East Asia region, as well as contributing to the process of building a nuclear weapon-free peace zone in this region. We strongly urge South and North Korea, the USA and China to ensure the keeping of this promise that they have made in the Armistice agreement in 1953. At the same time, the USA and Japan should stop imposing blockades and sanctions against the North. China should also simultaneously act its facilitator’s role in order to resume dialogues with all the member countries to withdraw from the region to pave the way for peace and reconciliation. We also urge the North Korea to stop their nuclear arms developments but to engage themselves instead for the sake of one people and one community long divided by the design and desire of some other countries.
Although progress has been made at various levels in the past for the reunification there is still a long way to go to accomplish the mission of peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula. We recognize the value of ecumenical engagement in advocacy. We hereby join the people of Korea in their endeavour to establish peace and justice in the region.
It is our prayer that the vision and dream of all Koreans, their common aspiration for healing, reconciliation, peace and reunification be fulfilled at the earliest.