Korea’s Present and Future: An interview with Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong

Antonio Spadaro, SJ

 Antonio Spadaro, SJ / Church Life / Published Date:14 December 2017/Last Updated Date:22 February 2021

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The mission of the Church in Korea; the meaning and context of the escalating tension around North Korea, aware of the interests of the superpowers; the need for a new and mutual trust between the Holy See and China after an era of colonialism and an age of persecutions; the important and positive challenges that the Asian continent brings to the Church and the world: these are some of the issues of a far-reaching conversation between the president of the Korean Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-Joong, and the editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro.

This interview presents a first analysis of Pope Francis’ visit to Korea that was deeply stimulating for the ecclesial fabric there. The article also describes the contrasting tones of a dynamic and vibrant, multicultural and multilingual Korea, where Christian, Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist religious traditions peacefully coexist.

“We live peacefully together, without serious conflicts,” says Archbishop Kim Hee-joong. “In Korea, we never use the expression ‘other religions,’ rather we talk about ‘the religions of our neighbors.’ Even if we do not share the faith or the doctrine of the religions of our neighbors, we recognize their positive effects, when they do not disregard universal moral values.”

The archbishop also commented that the path of peaceful reconciliation between South Korea and North Korea “is still possible.” He said, “Korean people, both in the North and the South, share the same language, writing, history, culture and tradition, the same blood and the same heart. This is what makes the basic homogeneity of Korean people. If the superpowers do not prevent it, I believe we have the human and cultural resources within ourselves for mutual reconciliation, thus becoming builders of peace in Northeast Asia and offering our contribution to peace around the world. I consider it better to support and foster direct dialogue between South and North Korea, without the intervention of any other foreign country.”