On November 23, 2021, the WCC-NCCK Consultation was held in Seoul, South Korea. The main topic was: “Settlement of Permanent Peace on the Korean Peninsula.” There, Peter Prove, director of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, spoke in a statement in favor of resuming peace efforts between North and South Korea, which have stalled due to the corona pandemic.
He emphasized that the WCC has been working with representatives from the South and North Korean peninsula since the mid-1980s to work on the issues of peace and reunification. In this regard, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) on the South Korean side and the Korean Christian Federation on the North Korean side work together to support exchanges and peace efforts. The Ecumenical Forum for Korea (EFK) was established, and through this cooperation and great international ecumenical solidarity, humanitarian cooperation projects crossing the Korean border were able to flourish.
Mr. Prove sees the fundamental mission of the WCC as promoting the unity of the global churches, working for peace and helping people in need. On the one hand, he celebrated many highlights in this work: a delegation of NCCK and EFK members visiting North Korea for an ecumenical meeting in 2015, an international ecumenical conference for a peace treaty for the Korean Peninsula in Hong Kong on Nov. 14-16 2016 with a North Korean delegation, the Panmunjom Declaration, the summit between Chairman Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump in June of 2018 and the WCC’s 70th anniversary celebration.
On the other hand, Mr. Prove sees massive setbacks too, like the breakdown of rapprochements between North Korea and the USA and the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to an overall breakdown of many contacts with North Korea. This has been problematic because it was agreed that the EFK could only meet when both representatives from North and South Korea were present.
Nevertheless, Mr. Prove sees that ways have been found to continue to work together, as evidenced by the numerous initiatives to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. These include a global prayer campaign and the 2020 joint ecumenical statement.
Mr. Prove pointed out several problematic aspects of current sanctions against North Korea:
- They have not prevented North Korea from gaining access to nuclear weapons.
- The sanctions have only resulted in a halt to more humanitarian aid reaching North Korea. So the population suffers more from the sanctions than the system.
Furthermore Mr. Prove sees the unwillingness on the part of the U.S. to ease sanctions ensures that it is difficult to resume diplomatic dialogue. In addition, the Corona pandemic has ensured that the borders to North Korea have been closed, and important supplies have also stopped coming into the country, including from China. All exchanges and dialogue with North Korea have ground to a halt.
Peter Prove hoped that the WCC’s 11th Assembly from August 31 to September 8, 2022 in Karlsruhe, Germany with the theme, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”, could pave the way for resuming communication.
Especially with regard to the nuclear weapons debate, Mr. Prove contends that it is wrong to assume that these weapons are safe in the hands of some and not in the hands of others. Rather, he stresses they are not safe in anyone’s hands.
For Mr Prove anything that increases rather than decreases tensions will risk conflict and become an obstacle to peace. And anything that prevents a compassionate humanitarian response to the suffering of others is contrary to the Christian principles of love and care for one’s neighbor in need. Mr. Prove prays that through our fellowship and cooperation, and with God’s help, people will find the wisdom and strength to overcome all these obstacles to a better future for all people on the Korean Peninsula and around the world.