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Korea: Mons. Kim Hee-joong, we are impatiently looking forward to “a spring of peace”

Mons. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, Archbishop of Gwangju, President of the Korean bishops, was interviewed by SIR ahead of the Inter-Korean Summit meeting of 27 April and the summit between North Korea and the United States to be held in May. “We hope it will put an end to 70-years of conflict." The prelate added: “I hope these two historic meetings may usher in a new season of peace not only for the Korean peninsula, but for the Asian region as a whole, and that they may serve as a milestone of world peace.”  

(Foto: AFP/SIR)

Korea is “impatiently looking forward” to a “new spring of peace.” For this reason, in view of the upcoming inter-Korean Summit of April 27 and the North Korea-US Summit to be held in May, the leaders of the seven major religions in the country launched a joint appeal to all interested parties to ensure that “the Korean peninsula, once an arena of rivalry between superpowers, may become a land of dialogue and peace.” The appeal is contained in a statement released by the Korean Conference of Religions for Peace (KCRP), sent to SIR by the President of Korean bishops Msgr. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, archbishop of Gwangju. Religious leaders call upon the South Korean and North Korean governments to “seize this opportunity to end the division and break the chains that have bound and restricted this land for over seventy years.” They exhort the United States, China, Russia and Japan, to support “the upcoming summits of April and May and all future steps for peace.” The Summits have been preceded by a “surprise announcement” made a few days ago by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “We are entering a new phase in history,” he said. “North Korea will no longer carry out nuclear and missile tests.” Contacted by SIR, Msgr. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, promptly remarked: “These are important words for the future of the Korean peninsula and they constitute a historic announcement. All of us bishops and the Catholic Church in Korea welcome this piece of news.”

 

Can we believe it?

Kim Jong-un’s announcement to end nuclear texts is a significant gesture for peace in the Korean peninsula. His words are “law” in North Korea. Some are doubtful about his announcement,

But I want to believe it.

I think that Kim Jong-un wants to have the prerogative of every initiative at this stage. Accordingly, “stopping nuclear tests” in North Korea does not depend on US control. Rather, it is a result of his personal decision.

Two historic meetings lie ahead: with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, next April 27 and with US President Donald Trump  in the following weeks. What does this mean to you? What are your expectations?

I hope these two historic meetings may usher in a season of peace not only for the Korean peninsula but for the Asian region as a whole. May they also serve as a milestone for world peace.

We hope this 70-year long conflict, which divided a Country whose peoples share the same language and the same culture, with a common history that dates back 2000 years,  will finally come to an end. If we give up hopes for peace, peace will never take place, for if we give up hope it simply ends, not owing to its failure.

 

Have you spoken about these developments with Pope Francis? How will the Catholic Church be present and how will she follow these meetings? There was talk of the personal involvement of the apostolic nuncio, is it true?

Indeed, every time I had an audience with the Holy Father Francis, I asked for his prayers and his help for peace in the Korean peninsula, and Holy Father always assured them.

The Catholic Church in Korea is praying the Lord for reconciliation in the Korean peninsula and the Korean Bishops’ Conference is working with other organizations to ensure humanitarian assistance; Caritas especially is actively involved, and North Korea has deep faith in Caritas. Every evening, at 9 pm, the Catholic Church in Korea prays to our Father, recites the Hail Mary and Glory to the Father; in many parishes money is being collected for the future of the unified Korean peninsula. The Apostolic Nuncio greatly supports all efforts for reconciliation and peace with North Korea. I hope to visit North Korea in the near future.

Mons. Kim Hee-jung, could it be said that today the reconciliation of the Korean people is on the horizon?

In general there are no reasons for conflict between the peoples of North and South Korea.

I think that today the reconciliation of the Korean people is on the horizon, especially after the Olympic Winter Games of February last in South Korea, where we enjoyed cultural events, art and music performances typical of South and North Korea. I ask you all to pray for the success of these meetings.

 

 

 

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