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Prayers for unification mark Korean independence day

Both North and South Korea celebrate the day to mark their independence from Japanese colonial oppression in 1945

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 17, 2021 10:25 AM GMT

Updated: August 17, 2021 05:48 PM GMT

Prayers for unification mark Korean independence day

Students perform a group dance in a square near the Arch of Triumph as North Korea marks its 76th National Liberation Day in Pyongyang on Aug. 15. (Photo: AFP)

The World Council of Churches organized its annual Sunday of Prayer for the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

The prayer meeting was held on the 76th anniversary of National Liberation Day on Aug. 15.

Both North and South Korea celebrate the day to mark their independence from Japanese colonial oppression in 1945. The day also marks the division of the Korean Peninsula into two countries.

A joint effort by the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Korean Christian Federation, the prayer meeting is traditionally held on the Sunday before Aug. 15 every year, Vatican News reported.

This year’s theme was: “We love the Korean Peninsula where we share our laughter and tears.”

“The depths of hate are deep within us, and the forces that promote division are blocking our steps toward peace,” reads the prayer.

Pope Francis has also advocated peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula

National Liberation Day is also known as Gwangbokjeol, which translates to "bringing back the light."  It is celebrated with festivities, ceremonies and parades nationwide.

Sightseeing flights to the Dokdo islets were held for the first time on Aug 15. Dokdo is a disputed territory between Korea and Japan, and the islets are a military zone where passenger planes are not permitted to fly.

North Gyeongsang province hosted the special event in a bid to promote a new Daegu-North Gyeongsang integrated airport, expected to be operational by 2028.

Following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union divided the Korean Peninsula. Efforts to unify the two nations failed in 1947 following disagreements between the US and the Soviet Union.

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The Korean War started in 1950 when the North invaded the South, and the war claimed more than 4 million lives and divided 10 million families. The war ended on July 27, 1953, with an armistice, not a war treaty. Hence the two nations are technically still at war.

Churches in South Korea celebrate the Aug. 15 anniversary with a special prayer for peace and the reunification of the two Koreas.

Reconciliation of two Koreas has been a major focus of the Catholic Church in Korea. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) established the Special Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People in 1997.

The CBCK has organized several initiatives, including Masses, novenas and the Jubilee of National Reconciliation in June 2000.

Pope Francis has also advocated peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.

When the pope visited South Korea in 2014 to celebrate Asian Youth Day in Daejeon, he said, “Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation.”

Ahead of the meeting between former US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Korea’s demilitarized zone on June 30, 2019, the pope prayed that “such a significant gesture might constitute a further step along the path of peace, not only on the peninsula but for the whole world.”

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