While much of the world’s attention is focused on Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine and Ukraine’s response, Northeast Asia has been marking the 70th anniversary (July 27, 2023) of the armistice that ended the period of conflict known as the Korean War. There is still no peace treaty to formally indicate the end of hostilities. That is an important fact in present relations between North and South Korea, as well as between the U.S. and China.
After the 1945 Potsdam Conference agreed that the Soviets would accept Japan’s surrender north of the 38th parallel and the U.S. would accept Japan’s surrender south of that parallel, the Communists, with their anti-religious stance and aggressive atheism, who by then had established a regime in North Korea, proceeded to persecute the Catholic community. Then came the strong anti-communist policies of the Syngman Rhee and later the Park Chung Hee governments of South Korea. However, the visit to Korea of Pope John Paul II on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Church in Korea renewed enthusiasm for the evangelization of Korea and this evolved into the realization that mutual forgiveness and reconciliation between North and South were inseparable components of evangelization.
This report is intended as an update of Catholic and other Christian efforts to achieve reconciliation in Korea and Northeast Asia generally, particularly since the visit of Pope Francis to Korea in 2014. Its main concern is how those engaged in these efforts have been coping with the marked changes in North-South relations and policies over this period, and in particular, given the present geopolitical crisis involving a renewed threat of hostilities between superpowers in Northeast Asia.