Local bishops called the Inter-Korean Summit an answered prayer after the leaders of the two Koreas signed a peace agreement on April 27.
In a historic first, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un crossed the military demarcation line within the Demilitarized Zone that has divided the Korean peninsula since 1953 to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-In on southern soil.
During the summit, both leaders signed the Panmunjeom Declaration stating that “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.”
Within the joint statement, both Korean leaders agreed to “the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and to actively pursue further meetings with the United States, and possibly China, to establish a more permanent peace.
“The Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Reunification on the Korean Peninsula is a historical event that opens the era of reunification of the Korean peninsula and is a gospel of hope on this earth,” Archbishop Kim Hee-Jung of Gwangju wrote in a statement April 27.
“I expect that the fruits of this inter-Korean summit, which God has made in response to our prayers and efforts, will be more energized by the unification ministry and private exchanges that the Korean Catholic Church has promoted during that time,” Archbishop Kim continued.
The April 27 declaration included a commitment to increased exchanges, visits, and cooperation between the two Koreas to promote a sense of unity, including the reunion of families separated during the Korean War.
The Korean archbishop noted that the Catholic Church in South Korea has actively engaged in private exchanges and cooperation efforts with North Korea in the past through the bishops’ National Reconciliation Committee and Caritas International Korea.
“Since 1965, the Korean Catholic Church has been praying for the true peace of the two Koreas and the reconciliation and reconciliation of the nation on June 25 every year,” wrote Kim, who currently serves as chairman of the Korean bishops’ conference.
“Until the day when complete peace is established on the Korean peninsula and divided peoples are united, the Catholic Church of Korea will accompany the journey for reconciliation of the people in unity,” promised the archbishop.
Leading up to Friday’s summit, Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon, president of the Korean bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, called on Catholics to be united in prayer through “a Movement to Pray the Holy Rosary for Peace” each day at 9 p.m.
“Through these prayers, something miraculous is happening in this land by the help of God for whom nothing will be impossible,” he wrote on April 25.
Bishop Lee called the Inter-Korean Summit “a miracle that could be unimaginable even six month ago” and credited “first and foremost” the “desperate prayers of the faithful.”
“God answered our prayers with this valuable opportunity,” said Bishop Lee, who continued to urge more prayers for the Korean Peninsula.
Pope Francis also said that he was personally praying for the Inter-Korean summit during his general audience on Wednesday, April 25. He asked the faithful to join him in praying to the Father of peace “for the people of Korea, those in the South and those in the North.” The pope called on “those who have direct political responsibilities to have the courage of hope by becoming ‘artisans’ of peace” and “to continue with trust along the path they have begun for the good of all.”
The highly anticipated meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will occur “in the coming weeks” according to a statement of the White House Press Secretary on April 26.
“After a furious year of missile launches and Nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea is now taking place. Good things are happening, but only time will tell!” wrote President Trump on Twitter on the morning of April 27.
The White House also released photos of a meeting between Mike Pompeo, who was sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State yesterday, and Kim Jong Un that took place in North Korea over Easter, when Pompeo served as C.I.A. director.
“We are encouraged by President Moon and Leader Kim Jong-un’s stated goal of complete denuclearization in the Panmunjom Declaration. We’re studying the declaration closely to understand whether Leader Kim made any new commitments as part of this agreement,” said Secretary Pompeo at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels Belgium on April 27.
Some have criticized the Inter-Korean Summit for its lack of concrete details as to what is meant by “the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and how this could be achieved.
Nicholas Eberstadt, a founding director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, pointed out that the North Korean regime has violated previous peace agreements multiple times, such as the “Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” in 1992, “the South-North Joint Declaration” in 2000, and the 2007 “peace declaration” in which the South Korean president and Kim Jong-Il signed a statement calling for an “end to the current armistice regime and build a permanent peace regime.”
“The problem is that North Korea can walk away from its peace promises at any time,” said Eberstadt in an op-ed in the New York Times. “And when it eventually does, it will be able to blame whomever it wishes for this tragic result — potentially polarizing politics in South Korea, igniting tensions in Seoul’s alliance with Washington or fracturing the loose coalition of governments that rallied around sanctions against it.”
Eberstadt, who is also an American Enterprise Institute scholar, was additionally critical that North Korea’s egregious human rights abuses were not addressed in the Korean negotiations.
There are currently an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in North Korea’s six political prison camps, in which the U.S. State Department has found evidence of starvation, forced labor, and torture.
“Reports indicate that tens of thousands of prisoners facing hard labor or execution are Christians from underground churches or who practice in secret,” according to the 2018 report by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.
“In reality, there are so many mountains that we have to climb in the path towards the dialogue phase. Therefore, we need to pray all the more ‘so that the will of our Father may be done on earth as in heaven,’” said South Korean Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon.
“We need to fervently keep praying for a everlasting peace on this Korean Peninsula.”