“I am extremely happy”, exclaimed Monsignor Lazzaro You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, as he learned the news coming from the summit held yesterday in a village on the border area of Panmunjom between the delegations of the two Koreas on participation in the next Olympic games, one of the very first “high-level” dialogues between the representatives of the North and South of the Country.
“The meeting went very well”, said the bishop, who defined as “important” what emerged during the meetings, namely that “North Korea expressed the intention to participate in the Winter Games, with a delegation that includes not only athletes and a taekwondo team but also journalists and summit representatives.”
The families separated by the war. The meeting extends the scope of the Olympic games, as it ushers in a dialogue process in the peninsula – after a period of tension, which the Korean bishops had long hoped for. The bishop of Daejeon highlighted in this respect the importance of “the request on the part of South Korea
to start discussing the situation of separated families,
ahead of the Lunar New Year due to be celebrated February 14 and activate a direct communication channel between the military to prevent accidental clashes on the border.”
The collateral damage of the division of the two Koreas resulting from the 1953 war, include the absurd tragedy of separate families living on the two sides of the peninsula. After years with no chance of dialogue on this issue, in 1988 meetings started to take place regularly more or less every year (approximately twenty to date), during which a few dozen or hundred people drawn by lot had the opportunity of briefly meeting their dear ones just across the border on Mount Kumgang, in the North Korean territory. According to data collected by Asianews,
there are currently around 60 thousand people, growing old every day, who nurture the hope of being able to see their relatives before they die. The last meeting of families took place in 2015.
Positive signs of détente. Signs of rapprochement were already seen in the end-of-year speech to the nation by Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “The most surprising element was the use of a new, more serene and agreeable language – said Msgr. You – On several occasions Kim Jong-Un said, ‘we are one people, one race’, conveying the hope that the Olympic games may be a success for the entire Korean people.”
A fundamental role in the thawing of relations in the Korean peninsula was played by the newly-elected president of South Korea Moon Jae-in, who “year after year, namely since the day of his instalment – underlined bishop You – has been thinking of the Olympic Games, and humbling himself he has always sought the path of dialogue with the North. After the address of the Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, he was thus able to immediately fix a meeting.”
The hope of the bishops. “We must continue to tirelessly seek a path for the coexistence and reconciliation of our people”, exhorted Bishop You. “That’s why we need to dialogue, negotiate, meet and continue the dialogue. Without this, there is no possibility of rapprochement. We are witnessing the first steps forward.” Sport, with the Olympic Games, has done much more than politicians have done up to now. “It’s hard to talk from the political angle – said Msgr. You –. But
We are one people, one family
It’s the underlying reality of all forms of dialogue. But more needs to be done. We must do everything possible to re-unite Korea.”