Pray with Korea, April 30, 2023
Lectionary Selection: Psalm 23
Prayers for Korea
O God our Shepherd, walk with us. Through the dark valleys and shadows of fear and violence that we find ourselves in, be with us. Where there is trouble, remind us of your presence and guide us along your path. Where we are burdened by a past that has left us scarred and broken, we pray you restore our souls.
We pray for the people of Korea. In this seventieth year after the Korean War, may the shadows of war be lifted so they may find peace and wholeness. We pray for our partners, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and the National Council of Churches in Korea, that you bless their work and witness in Korean society. We pray for Global Mission Intern Lydia Yang and for the important ministry of Durebang. May it continue to be a light amid the shadows of sexual exploitation and trauma.
Lord, we thank you for your strength and comfort.
Mission Moment from Korea
The shadows of violence and fear from war on the Korean peninsula are still felt today, seven decades after the Korean War armistice was signed. The peninsula and the people of Korea remain divided, not only by the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) that extends coast to coast along the 38th parallel, but by a chasm of both longing and suspicion that persists on both sides of the division.
One of the most fearsome shadows of the Korean War is the extreme militarization of the peninsula. The US stations over 28,000 troops in South Korea, supplies it with the latest weapons systems and patrols the surrounding seas with nuclear-armed submarines. The US retains war-time operational control over South Korea’s forces and every Spring the two nations conduct extensive war games. For its part, North Korea spends inordinately on the nation’s military and nuclear capability.
Another shadow of war in South Korea is persistent sexual violence. From the Korean War, until it closed in 2005, a sex industry operated in the camptown alleys around US Camp Stanley near Uijeongbu north of Seoul. It has since shifted to the nightclubs in Pyeongtaek outside the new Camp Humphreys, the largest overseas US military installation. A history of abuse by US soldiers and institutionalized exploitation by officials left generations of women, first Korean and later migrants, who were often deceived into sex work, scarred and traumatized.
A light amid the shadow of sexual violence in South Korea is the Durebang women’s center, where Global Mission Intern Lydia Yang has been serving through the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. For years in Uijeongbu and now in Pyeongtaek, Durebang has provided counseling, health and legal support, and shelter to the women in the sex clubs. In September 2022, after a decade of advocacy by a coalition that included Durebang, the Supreme Court in Korea ruled in favor of a group of women saying they deserved compensation for their exploitation by foreign troops and the state. The “U.S. Military Camptown Comfort Women National Compensation Suit” was a historic accomplishment in shining a light of accountability and hope for ending this legacy of sexual violence. War casts long shadows in Korea. Until a treaty that formally ends the war is signed, there is unlikely to be a path leading from the valleys of violence and division toward peace, justice, and reconciliation. On this seventieth anniversary of the Korean War, the UCC and Disciples are joining the National Council of Churches in Korea in a global Peace Treaty Campaign to raise support for a treaty and a policy shift that will lift the shadows still cast by life-threatening militarization and the sexual exploitation that has accompanied it for years.
Mission Partners in Korea
- National Council of Churches in Korea
- Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
- Hanshin University
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