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Korean partners tell of tensions, ask for prayers for peace

By Ed Evans - co-chair Global Ministries Committee

With the increasing escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the Global Ministries Committee of the PNC has been in communication with church partners and friends in South Korea. They ask for American Christians to reflect on the mood in their country. 

Ed Evans receives a stole from the Rev. Lee Joong-Tae in 2016.  Photo courtesy of Ed Evans

The committee counterpart in Seoul is the Overseas Mission Committee of the Seoul East Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea (PROK). In recent communication from the PROK, their leaders express hope that newly elected President Moon  Jae-In “will cope wisely with the pending issues, praying that a peaceful change of government will lead to a fast recovery of peace and stability on the peninsula.”  

The mood, they acknowledge, is tense.

They say national security is the most acute issue facing their country now.  Concerns have been raised by all church partners on the Korean Peninsula about the continued U.S.  deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

They fear that system “tends to needlessly increase tension for the entire region.” 

“We doubt whether this system could be helpful for securing peace on the Peninsula,” writes the Rev. Lee, Joong-Tae, chair of the Seoul East Presbytery Overseas Mission committee.  In addition, he said the people of South Korea feel they are facing strong resistance from both North Korea and China, whose economic and political influences cannot be ignored. 

With the recent election of a new president, “the Seoul East Presbytery and all the Christians in Korea are praying for a peaceful change of government and for a fast recovery of peace and stability on the peninsula,” writes the Rev. Lee.

Contacts in the Reconciliation Unification Department of the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK) agree that while the mood in South Korea has been tense, it is more hopeful than it would be if ousted President Park Geun-hye had not been impeached, ending nine years of what they feel has been the hostile stance of two previous administrations toward North Korea.  

Kurt Esslinger, mission co-worker with the NCCK said many in South Korea are hopeful that the recent election of Moon Jae-In to the presidency will help ease tensions.  

During the presidential campaign, Moon was outspoken about his intentions to re-open negotiations and dialogue with North Korea, said Kurt.  However, he added that it is unclear how willing President Moon will be to defy the wishes of the U.S. administration.  

He said the effort to gain support for the NCCK campaign to replace the Korean Armistice with a peace treaty has become more urgent because of what he describes as the big change in the equation:  Trump.  In response to the election of President Trump and his turn to more overt military threats and movements, the NCCK has been working with the National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA), sending a delegation to this year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington DC. While there, they met with participants in the Peace Treaty campaign as well as representatives from several government officers including staff of the State Department.  

In addition, some NCCK staff and committee members were sent to the United States to participate in protests against the THAAD missile defense system.  The NCCK sees THAAD as needlessly increasing tensions for the entire region including China—even more problematic than North Korean missile tests.  

The NCCK has been coordinating special worship services of protest in Seongju, the village where the THAAD missile system is being installed. South Korean news agencies report that President Moon will ask the Korean National Assembly to hold a ratification vote on the THAAD missile deployment, saying that a vote is necessary to bring the issue into public debate and as a diplomatic bargaining chip. Because the system has already been deployed in Seongju, the push for a ratification vote will not likely lead to the system’s withdrawal.

Kurt said the NCCK is currently planning its next Peace Treaty Campaign Tour in Europe to meet with partners in European churches to determine how much they might be able to persuade countries who were involved in the UN action during the Korean War to support the Peace Treaty campaign. Kurt said the NCCK continues to search for ways to pressure the United States to support efforts to create a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War fighting.  

Information on the Peace Treaty Campaign is on a YouTube video 
Ed created at the request of the NCCK:

NCCK General Secretary, Rev. Kim, Young Ju, is worried that President Trump “does not understand the value of subtle diplomacy that may spare lives.”  The THAAD missile defense system and deployment of U.S. naval forces in the region, he said, “could push North Korea over the brink and lead to rekindling open warfare, which would mean the destruction of the entire peninsula.” 

South Korean activist pastor Rev. Borah Lim of Sumdol Presbyterian Church (PROK) in Seoul is also concerned about what she believes to be excessive aggressive U.S. intervention.  Tension, she said, is always with us. Their prayer now is for a peaceful transition with the South’s new leadership, followed by a peace agreement.

For information, call 360-670-1073 or email


Pacific Northwest Conference UCC News © Summer 2017


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