What U.S. Christians Miss About North — and South — Korea

Sojourners: What U.S. Christians Miss About North — and South — Korea

Sitting on the 28th floor of the Lotte Hotel World in downtown Seoul having breakfast with a long-time ecumenical friend from Korea, I asked him what the churches in his country were thinking about the present crisis. He immediately responded, “We’re asking, ‘What are the churches in America thinking?’”

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Two realities here in South Korea seem unknown or underappreciated in the U.S. First is the fact that the Korean War has not ended. There’s no treaty, and no permanently recognized peace — only an agreement 60 years ago to cease actual hostilities. Traveling through layers of security to Panmunjom, where the armistice was signed, and where North Korean and U. N. forces (mostly South Korean) still wordlessly face one another, brings home this truth. Formally, there is no peace.

Second, for some Koreans, reunification is an earnest hope. In the U.S. we simply assume there are two countries — North Korea and South Korea, end of story. But countless times here I’ve heard prayers and hopes for reunification, some time, in some way. And those prayers come from Christian communities across South Korea. It’s hard to answer how reunification would be peaceably achieved, but that doesn’t diminish hope. Being here, I’m reminded that Korea has been one culture, with one people, and one land for most of its history. The DMZ is an artificial demarcation, similar to the former divisions of Germany and of Vietnam.

We Christians should be careful about hurrying to shed blood through war. While the actions of Kim Jong-un may be unjustifiable, we should all remember the sheer number of innocent souls that will simply be counted as “collateral damage” should we allow his posturing to abandon the Prince of Peace.

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