April 4, 2016
The North and South relationship has been completely cut off and war clouds are hovering over the Korean peninsula due to North Korea’s fourth nuclear testing and satellite launch as well as the closing down of the Kaesung Industrial Complex and the UN Security Council Resolution 2270 on North Korea.
As an agent of peace and reconciliation, and to fulfill its commitment to peace and reconciliation, the Reconciliation and Reunification Committee (RRC) held a working-level talk with the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) Feb. 28-29 in Shenyang, China. The delegates of the RRC included the chair, Dr. Noh Jungsun, and Rev. Jeon Yongho, Rev. Cho Hungjung, Rev. Han Giyang, and Rev. Shin Seungmin. The KCF was represented by four members including the chair-person, Rev. Kang Myungchul. The talk, which had been planned since last year as a regular meeting, aimed specifically to discuss areas of exchange and cooperation between the North and South churches over the course of a year. As severe setbacks were expected regarding the North-South churches’ future cooperation if the talk was to be cancelled, the RRC, reiterating the importance of civilian exchange, appealed its strong intention to meet the KCF to the Ministry of Unification numerous times but they repeated its stance of "not allowing any sort of exchange."
However, despite the Ministry’s disapproval, the RRC participated in the talk. In this talk, the following was shared: 1. When the North-South relationship has been severed, the civil society including religions should take on the role to break the deadlock and the North and South churches should especially actively work for the nation’s peace; 2. Both KCF and NCCK affirm that war in the Korean peninsula cannot be justified for whatever reason and that any action triggering war must be denounced. The two churches convey this affirmation to their respective governments; 3. Nuclear tests, satellite launching, the shutdown of Kaesung joint industrial zone, and the UN’s resolution contribute nothing to peace in the Korean peninsula. In addition, the two churches agreed on the 2016 North-South Common Easter Prayer.
After returning to South Korea, a detailed report of the talk was submitted the Ministry of Unification, but on March 23 each of the five participants was charged a penalty of 200 million Won (about $ 2,000) for illegally coming into contact with the KCF chair-person and three others without prior permission (Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act 9.2, 1; 28 1&2). In addition, the Ministry made a verbal notification that the RRC and the five participants of the talk would be prevented from contacting North Koreans for a certain period of time.
Thereupon, on April 1, the RRC held an emergency meeting and decided that the Ministry’s sanction is "an overt regulation against civilian unification movement and a violating act on mission work banning even the activities based on religious faith." Hence the RRC was determined to resist the government sanctions together with the nine member churches of the NCCK and their 500 million believers as well as with the support of global ecumenical communities. Regarding the Ministry’s penalty, the RRC decided to bring this case to the court and organize protesting demonstrations and press conferences to change the present government’s anti-peace and hostile policies against the North.
In spite of all the difficulties and pains, we, with sincere prayers, will continue our journey for peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula, and we believe that the entire faith community in the world who yearns for peace will be with us.
Rev. Dr. Noh Jungsun, Chair-person
Reconciliation and Reunification Committee