As the tension between the US and North Korea increases, the Korean Peninsula itself “is a powder keg ready to explode and cause another war”, warned Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, at an interfaith meeting in Seongju, South Korea, to commemorate the end of the Korean war 64 years ago.
He told AsiaNews that “if peace does not come to the Korean Peninsula, it will collapse in the whole of North-East Asia”.
Archbishop Kim Hee-jong joined about 400 other South Korean religious leaders for the interfaith ceremony on 3 August to commemorate the end of the war between the two Koreas on 27 July 1953. They called for “true peace” between the two countries, instead of only the “truce” that brought an end to the war.
Seongju, in North Gyeongsang Province, is home to an anti-missile system the US set up in 2016 to protect the South against possible attacks from the North – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). The Bishop referred to it, saying THAAD could not bring peace to Korea as it was “illusory to impose peace with weapons”.
The Korean Peninsula was divided on 15 August 1945, with Russia and Japan appointed to temporarily administer the North, and the USA to administer the South.
In 1948 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was officially established and the steady persecution and elimination of Christianity from the national psyche began; it is thought that tens of thousands of Christians live in extreme deprivation there today – many of them in prison or forced labour camps.
Following the Korean War (1950-53), any form of public Christian worship was banned, and surviving Christians had to take their beliefs “underground”.