Family reunion can help find peace in Korean peninsula, Moderator says
Published on 11 February, 2015
Allowing separated families in South and North Korea to be reunited is one step towards peace between the two nations, according to the Moderator of the General Assembly.
In a letter to the ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the UK and to politicians in Westminster and Holyrood, Rt Rev John Chalmers said: "The Church of Scotland agrees with our partners - that reconciliation is impossible without healing the pain and suffering of families who have been separated since the division of the Korean peninsula. Can the South Korean government take a bold step to resolve the present deadlock so that the separated families can meet each other and celebrate Seolnal (Korean New Year) in joy and hope?"
Seventy years ago World War II ended and Korea was liberated from 35 years of Japanese occupation.
The Soviet Union and the United States agreed on the partition of Korea along the 38th parallel, with the north under Soviet occupation and the south under US occupation.
In the 1950-53 Korean War 3.5 to 5 million people died, including at least 2 million civilians – about 10% of Korea's pre-war population.
The war ended with a ceasefire agreement, not a peace treaty, and hardened the partition of the peninsula and division of the Korean people.
In 1984 the World Council of Churches (WCC) facilitated a meeting of church leaders from North and South Korea that inspired a generation of Christian leaders in Korea and in the northeast Asian region to engage actively in public witness and advocacy for peace, justice and the reunification of Korea.
Thirty years on there is renewed interest in a process of encounter and cooperation between Korean churches and Christians in both North and South, accompanied and supported by the WCC, churches and specialized ministries around the world.
The National Council of Churches in Korea and Church of Scotland partner churches have lobbied their own government to lift the sanctions against North Korea (called the May 24 or 5.24 Measures) which prevent humanitarian aid from going into North Korea for relief to those who are hungry and sick.
The churches have also asked the President of South Korean, Park Geun-hye, to open the border to humanitarian aid and to allow family reunions to take place. These sanctions are a significant obstacle to humanitarian support and the allowing separated families to meet.