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Cautious welcome for north-south peace accord in Korea

27 April 2018


The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un (left), and the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, at Panmunjom, South Korea, last Friday

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un (left), and the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, at Panmunjom, South Korea, last Friday

CHRISTIAN groups have welcomed the news that North and South Korea have committed to “lasting peace” on the Korean peninsular after decades of hostility.

On Friday morning, the North Korean Supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, issued a joint statement that committed the two countries to “complete denuclearisation”.

In a statement, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) said: “Having recognized the absurdity and pain brought forth by separation, for more than 50 years the NCCK has worked for the reconciliation and peace of Korea while praying without ceasing.

“We strongly support the agreement to replace the armistice treaty with a peace treaty by the end of this year, and to build a long-lasting and stable peace in the peninsula through complete denuclearization.”

Pope Francis said on Sunday that he was praying that the agreement achieves “a path of sincere dialogue for a Korean Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons”.

The Pope said that he was praying so that “the hope for a future of peace and more fraternal friendship will not be disappointed, and that collaboration will continue to bear fruit for the beloved Korean people and for the whole world”.

Open Doors, an international ministry that serves persecuted Christians greeted the news with caution.

A spokeswoman said: “The meeting between North Korea and South Korea certainly is historic. But it’s impossible to know how the outcomes of these talks will impact the persecuted church in North Korea.

“North Korea is the most difficult place in the world to be a Christian — people are interned in prison camps and killed if their faith is discovered. We hope and pray that any engagement North Korea has with the outside world will lead to much-needed fundamental human rights for the people of North Korea, including the international right of freedom of religion or belief for Christians.”

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said that the WCC and “the worldwide ecumenical movement join with all people of good will in celebrating the historic contributions made by today’s Inter-Korean Summit to the growing movement for peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula”.

The Christian Conference of Asia’s general secretary, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, said on Thursday: “It is our fervent prayer and hope that the North and South Korean leaders will work out a suitable solution based on equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

“It is also our sincere hope that a successful inter-Korean meeting will pave the way for a highly anticipated encounter between the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the US President Donald Trump.”

Dr Chunakara continued: “President Trump’s support to North and South Korea ‘to discuss the end of the war’ is a significant turning point in international relations and diplomacy. However, sustained efforts to keep the momentum of the new enthusiasm are vital to pursue the spirit of the new initiative.”

The meeting between President Moon and Kim Jong-un was the first between the two countries’ leaders for a decade.

President Moon told reporters: “To completely denuclearise, we declare that we will co-operate to bring about an everlasting peace on the peninsula.”

The two leaders signed the Panjunmon declaration, named after the village where the talks took place.

It said: “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

“South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard.”

A report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), released in February, said that, although there had been some “very small positive changes” in human rights in the country, religion remained taboo, and reported that anyone found to be a Christian was immediately shot (News, 9 February).

Last year world church leaders warned that a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic” following tensions over missile testing in the country (News, 8 September 2017).

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