Posted on 23 March 2004

International consultation of churches on the role of the churches in the process towards a peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula

Recalling that Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians appeals to Christians that they should agree with one another so that there may be no division and that they should perfectly be united in mind and thoughts (1 Cor 1:10), delegations of the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) have met in Germany from March 11-15, 2004 in the Evangelische Akademie Arnoldshain with representatives of the German Protestant Churches and Missions as well as with representatives of the Association of Korean Congregation in Germany, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the National Christian Council in Japan, the Association of Christian Churches in Germany, the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, the National Council of Churches of Christ and Church World Service in the USA and the United Church of Canada for a consultation on the role of the Churches in the peaceful reunification on the Korean Peninsula sponsored by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau (EKHN) and the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany (EMW).

This meeting stands in the dual tradition of the conferences sponsored by the WCC which took place in Tozanso, in Glion/Switzerland in 1986, 1988, 1990 and in Kyoto/Japan in 1995 and of the bi-lateral German-Korean consultations held eight times between 1974 and 2001. This consultation also drew on the experiences of previous meetings between Christians from the South and the North of Korea in Germany during the Evanglische Kirchentag in Berlin (1989), in Leipzing (1997) and in Frankfurt (2001).

The participants remember with joy and gratitude these historical meetings as well as the more recent visits of Church delegations from Germany, Canada and the U.S to Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the past two years.

While the division of Germany was a consequence of World War II, at the end of Japanese colonial rule Korea became a victim of the Cold War confrontation, which led to the division of the peninsula. In spite of the ideological confrontation during the cold war, Germany was spared the fate of an inner-German war, while the division of Korea led to the 1950-53 Korean war, and the peninsula remains divided to this day.

The participants acknowledge the contribution of the Protestant churches towards overcoming the division of Germany in a peaceful manner and the experiences that were made in connection with the reunification of the country after the opening and the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.
They note the difference between the situations of Germany and Korea and that the German model of reunification is not applicable to the Korean peninsula. They recognize the fact that the Churches in both German states had a social and historic significance, which was much different from the significance of the Churches in both sides of Korea.

Germans understand from their own experience, that the forcible division of Korea continues to cause great suffering for innumerable families and is felt as being an unnatural condition. They know the yearning for national self-determination and understand the aspiration to be free from the permanent threat of military confrontation.

The division of Korea remains both a tragedy for the Korean nation and an extremely volatile threat to world peace. The encouraging inter-Korean rapprochement resulting from the June 15, 2000 Joint Summit Declaration suffered a serious set-back by the hostile posture of the present U.S. administration which defined the DPRK as part of an Axis of Evil. 
Along with the new U.S national security strategy of pre-emptive first strike, the people of Korea feel insecure and threatened. Moreover, many view these steps as deliberate attempts by the USA to frustrate the Korean peoples movement towards national sovereignty and reunification. The participants urge the USA to change its confrontational and hostile policy against DPRK, in order to help create a climate conducive to peace and security in the region.

For over eighteen months now, the USA and the DPRK have been locked in a dangerous showdown over the DPRKs nuclear program.
The impasse has prevented the DPRK from fully participating in several multilateral for a. It has dramatically decreased humanitarian assistance from the international community and has denied the DPRK the benefits of normalized relations with countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK as well as the European Union.

Nevertheless the participants foresees signs of hope.

The participants are convinced that people-to-people contacts, communication and the mutual exchange of ideas between the northern and the southern parts of Korea can build a atmosphere of trust. In this context they acknowledge the role of the Churches in both sides of Korea in overcoming hostility and antagonism.

The participants have been heartened to note that since the Joint Summit Declaration there has been an intensification of confidence-building measures.

The Churches and their regional and international organizations could provide space for encounter, organize visits and contribute to overcoming mutual prejudices and fears.

The DPRK and the USA should immediately enter into bilateral negotiations including the nuclear issue. The participants are hopeful that the six-party talks can contribute very substantially to easing the political tension in Northeast Asia.

For this purpose, the countries involved must respect the national sovereignty of the Korean people and commit themselves to ending the state of armistice, to defusing the tension on the peninsula and renounce the option of a pre-emptive strike.

All churches in ecumenical solidarity with their sisters and brothers in Korea can encourage this process by reflecting together on peace, engaging in common prayer and reinforce their advocacy for establishing Just Peace on the Korean peninsula and in the region.

The participants are convinced that stronger cultural and economic cooperation with the DPRK as well as the expansion of just development aid and the continuation of humanitarian aid can bring about stability in Northeast Asia.

Therefore the participants urge strongly that sanctions against the DPRK must be immediately lifted and the general conditions for the development activities of NGOs and church aid agencies must be improved.

The churches, their regional and international organizations as well as their development and aid agencies can strengthen their commitment in an endeavor to let emergency assistance become more and more an assistance for self-help development projects. Such longer term assistance must not be at the expense of the ongoing emergency humanitarian aid particularly at a time when the international community is unable to meet the appeals for the DPRK made by the United Nations.

Following the groundbreaking Tozanso framework, the churches should consider the creation of a Forum for information and resource sharing, networking and advocacy strategies. This forum should provide for the widest participation by all interested church agencies and organization and an active role by both the NCCK and the KCF.

The participants urge the European Union and Germany, in particular, to play a constructive role in promoting the peace and reunification of Korea, noting the good relationships, which they have established with Korea. They should increase their humanitarian and other aid to the DPRK and with a view to promoting better ties, explore all possible exchange possibilities with the people and the government of the DPRK.

The participants welcome the long relations between the German Protestant Churches, the NCCK and KCF and urge that these important ecumenical activities continue. The participation in these encounters should always involve women and youth.

The participants believe that the international situation in North East Asia requires continued vigilance by the ecumenical community and recommend that the CCA and the WCC initiate appropriate actions and responses as necessary.

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