Koreans pave way of peace
New outreach rises with hope to ease a climate of fearBy DeVonna R. Allison Mennonite Mission Network
Though Jae Young Lee doesn’t think the recent North Korean shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island will lead to war, he is alarmed by what is happening in North and South Korea.
“I think it is seriously time for all of us — Koreans and others [in the international community] — to realize we need to create a concrete and peaceful resolution to our deadlock situation,” said Lee, peace program coordinator for the Korea Anabaptist Center.
The Korean peninsula is a land sharply divided. Though an armistice signed in 1953 ended military battles of the Korean War, it produced a stand-off between North and South Korea that continues to this day.
Periodically this uneasy cease-fire erupts in violence.
On Nov. 23, North and South Korea traded salvos over Yeonpyeong Island in the disputed West Sea/Yellow Sea. This was the first artillery exchange on the territory of the Korean Peninsula since the end of the Korean War. The clash displaced 1,000 people and left at least four dead and many wounded.
Karen Spicher, a Mennonite Mission Network worker who serves as communications administrator with Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute, or NARPI, lives south of the capital city of Seoul and teaches English at Connexus, the Korean Anabaptist Center’s language institute.
She said the shelling on Yeonpyeong Island brought a strong response from South Korean students.
“There are many different opinions in this country about peacebuilding efforts,” Spicher said, “but right now the media are raising a voice for retaliation and the need for increased defense. So thoughts of peacemaking are far from most people’s minds.”
At the same time, South Korea is to be home to the newly formed NARPI, an outreach project of Korea Anabaptist Center — a partner of Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Central Committee.
Inspired by attending Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute, Lee and fellow Canadian Mennonite University graduate Kyong Jung Kim, along with Tim Froese of Mennonite Church Canada, founded the Korea Anabaptist Center in Seoul in 2001.
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