ASIA/SOUTH KOREA- High tension between the Koreas: religions call for a "change of course"

Friday, 25 January 2013

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - In the atmosphere of high tension between North Korea and South Korea, "the Catholic Church and other religious communities call for a change of course, to ease friction and start a new era of cooperation and bilateral collaboration": this is what Fr. John Bosco Byeon, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in South Korea says to Fides Agency. Today, the North Korean government has promised "countermeasures against South Korea if it will participate in the regime of sanctions imposed by the UN," while in recent days Pyongyang announced a new nuclear missile test.
Speaking on the critical moment in the relations between the two Koreas, Fr. Byeon tells Fides: "Relations between the two states are really critical. We all look forward to the assignment of the newly-elected President, which will take place on February 25: Park Geun-hye has promised a change compared to the past. With the previous government of Lee Myung Bak, in fact, relations with the North were not good. On the new President’s agenda, this issue will be a priority. But Park Geun-hye belongs to the same conservative party as Lee, the Saenuri, who has always criticized the policy of thaw and rapprochement, which had been initiated in previous years. The fact is that today, in South Korea, public opinion notes that the situation has worsened and strongly asks a turning point in relations with the North."
The Director of the PMS reports that "religious communities, especially Christian and Buddhist leaders were organizing a new round of meetings with religious leaders in the North. But now these initiatives of dialogue are blocked." The Catholic Church "has always asked the government to distinguish the two levels: the political from humanitarian aid. But, with the previous government, it was not easy. We hope to meet and help the faithful Catholics in the North. Among other things, the only Catholic church still existing in Pyongyang needs restoration and it would be a good sign for us, in the Year of Faith, to be able to contribute to this restoration." (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/01/2013)