“Whichever the situation, the path of dialogue must be never abandoned.” It’s the message of reconciliation and peace to Korea conveyed by the archbishop of Gwangju, Mons. Igino Kim Hee-jung, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Korea, on behalf of the Catholic Church he represents. Over the past days Korea and the Holy See have celebrated 70 years since the launching of the process leading to the establishment of diplomatic relations. For the occasion the newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked archbishop Igino Kim Hee-Jung to represent the whole Korean nation and to meet with the Holy Father to celebrate this anniversary.
Your Excellency, North Korean missile tests are ongoing. The latest missile-launch, on May 28, travelled some 450 km before falling in the Sea of Japan. How can these launches be explained? There are at least two reasons that could explain the latest missile-launch:
A show of strength and a challenge to powerful nations.
To what extent is it a threat to peace? Also the people of North Korea want peace. Armaments, especially nuclear weapons, are always a threat to peace.
You had a 45-minute meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. What was the content of your talks? Is it true that South Korea and its President-elect asked the help of the Holy See to further a normalization in the relations with Pyongyang? I illustrated the situation of the Korean peninsula between North and South Korea. Our new President asked the Holy See to extend a special prayer to favour a normalization in the relations with Pyongyang.
You then met with Pope Francis for ten minutes. What did the Holy Father tell you?
The Holy Father asked to pray for peace in the Korean peninsula.
Pope Francis visited Korea in August 2014. What was his legacy to the Country? Pope Francis left a very powerful message that Korea’s Catholic Church welcomed and is trying to put into practice. It’s an invitation to strengthen a dynamic commitment for the weakest, poorest brackets present in our society despite economic and technological development.
North Korea’s humanitarian situation is difficult. What are the major needs?
There is need for dialogue and humanitarian cooperation.
What is the contribution of the Catholic Church? We are cooperating at humanitarian level through our charitable institutions whenever requested and allowed by the governments of North Korea and South Korea.
It is possible to deliver assistance? Or have also the borders of solidarity been shut down? Indeed, it’s possible. Provided the authorization of the governments of North and South Korea.
Which concrete aids are in the pipeline? We can supply food aid and medicines, if requested by North Koreans.
There is renewed hope in South Korea following the election of President Moon Jae-in. Which paths of dialogue with Pyongyang could be ushered in? Whichever the situation the dialogue between the North and the South must never be abandoned. Both parties, North Korea and South Korea, must continue preserving their mutual relations through dialogue, negotiation and exchange of humanitarian aids. Dialogue and negotiations are the only paths that can prevent the outbreak of a war. Since his very first statements the new President of South Korea claimed that dialogue comes first. That’s why he said that provided the right circumstances, he is willing to go to North Korea.