By Maggie Breen
I have been in Korea for 10 days now, gathered with students and young pastors from 60 different countries. We have spent much of the first half of this gathering listening to the stories of this country. We are in a beautiful and complex land, one that has over the last
century been colonized by outside forces and whose people have been under the power of external and internal oppressors. Yet those we have met remain a beautiful and generous people - eager to share their stories and find peace.
After the Second World War, this country was liberated from the Japanese forces that had colonized the country in 1910, but Korea quickly became prey to the dynamics of the Cold War. The country was divided along the 38th parallel, with the north subject to the power of the USSR and the south subject to the power of the US. When the north invaded the south in 1950, the UN led the international community to its defense, but at the end of the active conflict (that was the Korean War), peace did not ensue. A ceasefire was declared that is still in force today and the country remains divided. The people that we have heard from do not consider the Cold War to have ended. They know firsthand the effects on their nation of the stand-off in ideologies and might between two superpowers, who will not relinquish their influence on their country.
The majority yearn for reunification and those we have met identify themselves as Korean, not South Korean. Look here (www.peacetrain2013.org) for information on the Peace Train, a pilgrimage that travelled from Berlin, a city unified, to Busan for the assembly. Ten million families were separated in the division of this country, and the majority of these have never been able to find each other. Some of the younger Koreans that I have spoken to are less hopeful of reunification. They see two entities becoming more and more distant and unconnected as time goes by.
This is a beautiful land with a rich and important history. The people need the international community to hear their stories and to stand with them as they seek a just peace for this part of creation. This assembly is clear in the claim that peace is not the absence of war but wholeness of life for all people. Koreans want a just peace in their land.
This weekend we visited Gwangu, the city credited with inspiring the democratization process that took hold in this country in the 1980's. I will tell you more about it in my next blog...
With love and hope for peace,
Chuck Sigars is currently an elder at St. Andrew and a newspaper columnist and author.