Let Us Prepare for a New Day of Peaceful Coexistence:
A Statement on the Meeting of Leaders at Panmunjom
We at the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) welcome positively this meeting of South-North-U.S. leaders at Panmunjom. The third summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un at Panmunjom was a gateway through which we must pass toward permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. This meeting occurred through the implementation of the previous military agreement between the two Koreas, based on the actual environment of non-militarization of Panmunjom, with the independent arbitration of President Moon Jae-in, and the appropriate response from the leaders of North Korea and the U.S. Following the lead of the Inter-Korean Panmunjom Summit in April of last year, this meeting has turned Panmunjom, once a symbol of division, into a symbol of peace. This can be seen as the fruit of the sincere commitment of the three leaders to reconstruct the Division/Korean War system, the Panmunjom system, into a Korean Peninsula system of peace and co-existence.
In order to establish a Korean Peninsula Peace and Co-existence system, we ask that South Korea and the four major powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula first respect the North’s universal rights so that the North can develop peacefully through the stability of its regime. We hope that the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia will abandon the Cold War/anti-peace/realpolitik path of pursuing their own interests through a divided peninsula and instead turn to a peaceful diplomatic policy of diplomacy and pursuing co-prosperity through a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. In light of the full implementation of the military agreement between the two Koreas, the parties to the Korean War should immediately declare an end to the war and advance the process of transitioning from the armistice system to a system of peace and co-existence. We hope that South Korea and North Korea will establish a system of peace and co-existence on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia by establishing independent peace relations with the four surrounding national powers.
We believe that the process of establishing a peace and co-existence system on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia is the way to achieve denuclearization. We should reach a comprehensive agreement with the goal of establishing a peace and co-existence system on the Korean Peninsula as its main priority, and pursue the denuclearization of North Korea through phased implementation on the basis of simultaneous parallel reciprocity. Denuclearization of North Korea is a form of disarmament, not a goal in itself. When we make North Korea’s complete denuclearization an absolute condition for the removal of economic sanctions and for the construction of an environment of peace, and if this developing anti-peace crisis situation triggers a preventive or pre-emptive attack, the Korean Peninsula will experience an all-out destruction of irreparable proportions.
We hope that through working-level negotiations, North Korean and U.S. officials will seek to establish a Korean Peninsula peace and coexistence regime, including diplomatic ties between North Korea and the U.S., and that officials of the two Koreas in conjunction will actualize the commitments of the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Declaration. In this process, the religious and civic communities should strengthen cooperation in inter-Korean exchanges and horizontal solidarity for peace with the world religions and civil societies, while developing a peace process based on social consensus from the grassroots.
The NCCK has experienced the painful reality in which hostile symbiotic relations under the Cold War regime are re-produced and in which a strengthened national security system in South Korea justified state violence and failed to protect the safety of its own citizens’ lives. Since 1984, we have been working on common peace actions by building friendship through meetings with the Korean Christian Federation across the South Korea-North Korea border to cultivate a substantial peace on the Korean Peninsula. Through this process, we have learned that responsible actions that make for peace are more important than politics or ideology. The path to peace is not a straight road, but a narrow one that is only reshaped by building up mutual trust step-by-step. This path we must open by converting the symbols of division into symbols of peace, and take practical actions so that sprouts of peace may finally bear the fruit of healing and reconciliation.
Some people opposed Trump’s visit, denouncing it as humiliating diplomacy lacking Korean independence, but what was confirmed through the meeting of the three leaders of South Korea, North Korea, and the U.S. at Panmunjom was that the differences between the U.S. and North Korea were confined to the practicalities of denuclearization, but that all the people of the world, as well as the South, North, and the U.S., support real peace on the Korean Peninsula. Peace never comes from the barrel of a gun. Peace cannot be maintained through hostile Cold War relations that target, stereo-type, alienate, and antagonize neighbors.
Peace is so precious to each individual living on this land that it cannot be left to the president, politicians, and generals alone. We must work toward the peace consciousness of the world’s citizens and prepare for the day of peace by living in the light so that it will not hit us like a thief in the night. Now, we will prepare with all our might alongside the world’s religions and civil society to mark a new day of peaceful co-existence along the passage of time that will lead from Panmunjom to the White House.
“But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief….” (1 Thessalonians 5:4 NRSV)
July 2nd, 2019
Rev. Lee Hong Jung, General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK)