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Korean archbishop seeks dialogue to ease border tensions

North Korea launched a record eight ballistic missiles following a recent South Korea-US joint military drill

Archbishop Victorinus Yoon Kong-hi believes Korean reunification is possible

Archbishop Victorinus Yoon Kong-hi believes Korean reunification is possible. (Photo: Jang Jae-hak/CPBC)

Published: June 21, 2022 04:18 AM GMT

Updated: June 21, 2022 04:42 AM GMT

As the Catholic Church in South Korea launched a nine-day prayer for the reconciliation and unity of all Koreans, one of the nation’s most senior Catholic leaders has insisted dialogue can ease tensions and bring peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The Korean Church kicked off the novena for reconciliation on June 17, reported the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation (CPBC).

During an interview with CPBC this week, Archbishop Victorinus Yoon Kong-hi, the former head of the Archdiocese of Gwangju, called for continuous dialogue for a unified and peaceful peninsula.

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“We must accept that South and North Korea are one people and that it is God’s will that we live as one people. We should pray that God's will be done and try to do all we can,” the prelate said.

The comments from the 98-year-old churchman came as North Korea tested a series of missiles recently, sparking tension in the region.

North Korea tested a record eight ballistic missiles on June 6, just after South Korea-US joint military exercises ended, Al-Jazeera reported.

“Our military strongly condemns the North’s series of ballistic missile provocations and seriously urges it to immediately stop acts that raise military tensions on the peninsula and add to security concerns"

South Korean government officials termed the move as a “test and challenge” to its security readiness.

Following the end of Japan’s imperial rule after World War II, Korea was divided into two — the democratic south and communist north. The brutal Korean War (1950-53) left an estimated 4 million dead and 10 million refugees as communist forces of the north invaded the south, only retreating after UN interventions.

Archbishop Yoon was born in Jinnampo of Hwanghae, now part of North Korea, in 1924. He is among the few surviving Korean Catholics who endured persecution by North Korean forces and fled to the south to save life in 1950.

The prelate recently published a Korean-language book titled The Story of the North Korean Church, which is a comprehensive record of the history of the Church before Korea was split into two.

Archbishop Yoon says many people are eager for better inter-Korea relations and reunification.

“Not only are many people now interested in Korean reunification but inter-Korean relations [under the previous government] had a very good dialogue. It should have been possible for this to continue and develop, but it is a pity that it did not,” he said.

North Korea’s latest missile tests triggered condemnation from South Korea, Japan and the United States. It was the communist state’s 18th round of missile tests this year alone including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The US government sought more sanctions by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) against North Korea following the missile tests only to be vetoed by China and Russia

“Our military strongly condemns the North’s series of ballistic missile provocations and seriously urges it to immediately stop acts that raise military tensions on the peninsula and add to security concerns,” South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

North Korea watchers have predicted that Pyongyang is gearing up for its first nuclear test in five years.

The US government sought more sanctions by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) against North Korea following the missile tests only to be vetoed by China and Russia. The UNSC split was the first since it imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006.

However, the US Treasury department has imposed sanctions on two Russian banks — the Far Eastern Bank and Bank Sputnik — for carrying out transactions for North Korean organizations. The North Korea Second Academy of Natural Sciences and Air Koryo Trading Corporation are also among institutions that have been sanctioned by the US.

In a joint statement, South Korea, Japan and the US said that North Korean missile launches violated UNSC resolutions and posed a grave threat to the region and the international community. The statement said the door remains open “to meeting with the DPRK [North Korea] without preconditions.”

Meanwhile, Archbishop Yoon continues to hope for peace through communication and dialogue. “We must not give up our efforts toward communication and unity,” he said.

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UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
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