International Ecumenical Conference on a Peace Treaty for the Korean Peninsula Communique

International Ecumenical Conference on a Peace Treaty for the Korean Peninsula Communique

International Ecumenical Conference on a Peace Treaty  for the Korean Peninsula

Hong Kong SAR, 14-16 November 2016


13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:13-20

On 14-16 November 2016, 58 participants from churches and related organizations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and 11 other countries [1] gathered in Hong Kong SAR, China, with the purpose of promoting improved inter-Korean relations and advancing the cause of peace on the Korean peninsula.

This conference, organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and hosted by the Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC), built upon the long history of ecumenical engagement and accompaniment of Christians from both North and South Korea in their search for peace and reunification after more than 70 years of division.[2] The presence of delegations from both the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) from the DPRK and the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) from South Korea – and the information, analysis and recommendations they provided – was pivotal to the conference and its outcomes.

We especially focused on the prospects and impact of a peace treaty for the Korean peninsula. We reaffirm the WCC 10th Assembly statement, even more so today, that “it is the right time to begin a new process towards a comprehensive peace treaty that will replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement”. Ending the suspended state of war that has existed since the Armistice Agreement of 27 July 1953 is both long overdue and still critically and urgently necessary. The absence of a formal end to the Korean War still colours and obstructs inter-Korean relations today, and encourages the escalating arms race and militarization of the peninsula and region. The DPRK has repeatedly called for a peace treaty, but the USA has rejected such calls. Progress towards a peace treaty is needed now, in order to interrupt the spiraling cycle of mutual antagonism, confrontation and militarization, to reduce tensions and build trust, to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Korean peninsula, and to promote an environment in which current issues in inter-Korean relations can be addressed and, God willing, resolved.

In face of the many threats and challenges to peaceful co-existence on the Korean peninsula, we say a clear and emphatic ‘NO!’ to war and to the threat of preemptive attack. We propose that future ecumenical initiatives with regard to the Korean peninsula be purposefully and explicitly configured so as to model and exercise leadership towards a process for a peace treaty to replace the Armistice Agreement. We invite increased ecumenical support – through prayer, advocacy, solidarity and participation – for the ongoing NCCK Peace Treaty Campaign in 2017 (in Europe) and 2018 (in Asia).

We cherish the longstanding ecumenical accompaniment of the relationship, dialogue and exchange between Christians from North and South Korea, as a rare and now possibly unique resource for peace in the region. It is an emblematic expression and example of the ecumenical Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. We encourage and support the WCC, Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and other ecumenical partners in their awareness-raising and accompanying roles.

We revisited the 2013 WCC 10th Assembly’s statement on peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula, and found its description of the situation and recommendations to be comprehensive and germane to the current context. We reaffirm inter-alia the recommendations contained in this and subsequent ecumenical policy statements concerning:

  • Promoting dialogue and creative peace-building processes
  • Organizing ecumenical solidarity visits to churches in North and South Korea
  • Widening ecumenical platforms for encounter between North and South Koreans, and especially for young people from both sides of the border
  • Halting all military exercises on or in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula that target the DPRK
  • Lifting the economic and financial sanctions imposed on the DPRK
  • The elimination of all nuclear weapons and power plants in the world.

With regard to the elimination of nuclear weapons, we reiterate the 10th Assembly statement that “Our shared hope for a nuclear-free world would not only be for the people of the Korean peninsula, but for all people in the world”. We note that on 27 October 2016 in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly a majority of member states voted for negotiations to be opened for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The DPRK was the only nuclear-armed state to vote in favour of this resolution. This is an important sign of hope.

The conference took place at a time of great and unforeseen changes and heightened uncertainty on the Korean peninsula and around the world, in the immediate aftermath of the US presidential election on 8 November, and during an acute political crisis in South Korea. Though the implications of these developments were still uncertain, we recognized that they may entail both new threats to peace and new opportunities for advancing the cause of peace.

We propose an ecumenical communication or demarche led by the WCC, in consultation with US churches and ecumenical bodies, to the US administration, to appeal for positive engagement with the current realities of the Korean peninsula, a cessation of hostile policies and military threats, and the renunciation of any first use of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula or in any other context. Any such communication or demarche should also call specifically for a reversal of the policy for deploying THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) weapons systems on the Korean peninsula, as a cause of increased tensions and risk, rather than effective protection.

We also propose engagement with the new Secretary General of the United Nations, with regard to the role of the UN in promoting just and sustainable peace on the Korean peninsula.

We call for the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mt Kumgang tourism as important models for building peaceful cooperation, mutual trust and recognition.

We heard from the KCF of proposals for grand national reunification meeting/s in Pyongyang in early 2017 with the objective of major improvement in inter-Korean relations. We encourage participation by the churches of South Korea, together with their Christian sisters and brothers in North Korea, in meetings for this important purpose, and we invite accompaniment and support from members of the wider ecumenical movement for Korean Christian participation in such initiatives. The participation of women and youth in such meetings is essential.

We call for intensified solidarity visits to the churches and Christians of North and South Korea. We call for expanded ecumenical platforms for encounter and exchange between North and South Koreans and between Korean Christians and the wide ecumenical movement, especially including women and young people. The participation of major global ecumenical organizations representing women and youth (World Alliance of YMCAs, World YWCA and WSCF) in this conference was very welcome, and we invite closer collaboration in ensuring women and youth are better represented in future ecumenical visits and platforms.

We express profound concern at the current policy and practice of the South Korean government to penalize South Koreans who seek to encounter and engage in dialogue with North Koreans. Such a policy cannot serve the interests of peace. We express our appreciation, respect and solidarity to the NCCK and the South Korean sisters and brothers who, despite being fined heavily for such encounters with North Korean sisters and brothers in Christ, continue in their commitment to this path. We call for interventions and advocacy with the South Korean authorities to reverse this self-defeating policy, to cancel the fines imposed, and to remove this obstacle on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.

We reject Cold War mentality in responses to the current situation on the Korean peninsula, and seek liberation from fear of the other. In times of crisis, or even on the very brink of war, we believe that the only path to peace is the path of encounter and dialogue among people. The churches of the world and the ecumenical movement have a key capacity and responsibility in accompanying this pilgrimage.

76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways…
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:76, 79

[1] Participants included delegations from the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) of the DPRK and from the National Council of Churches in (South) Korea (NCCK), members of the WCC Executive Committee and of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), representatives of global and regional church-based organizations (including the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the World Alliance of YMCAs, the World YWCA, the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), and representatives of churches and specialized ministries that are members of the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification and Development Cooperation (EFK) convened by the WCC.

[2] The conference built upon the achievements of the ‘Tozanso Process’ since 1984, the WCC 10th Assembly’s statement on peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula (2013) and subsequent initiatives including the International Consultation on Justice, Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula (held in Bossey, Switzerland, in June 2014), the EFK delegation visit to the DPRK in October 2015 and the EFK Steering Group meeting convened in Pyongyang on 28 October 2015, and the September 2016 visit to the DPRK by a high-level delegation from the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).