1988: Declaration - on Reunification and Peace

National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK)


1988 Declaration of the Churches of Korea on National Reunification and Peace

Beim Gedenken an diese Erklärung heißt es im Communiqué for "International Conference in Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the 88 Declaration":
"We reaffirm the five principles proclaimed in the '88 Declaration , which influenced later ROK government efforts at dialogue, and which are still necessary for resolution of division today: Independence, Peace, Grand National Unity, Humanitarianism and People's Participation."


Declaration of the Churches of Korea on National Reunification and Peace

by NCCK

We first offer our praise and thanks !giving for the grace and love of God, for sending the Gospel of Christ to the Korean peninsula, making it possible for us to know of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and for granting us salvation and adoption as children of God. We offer our thanks also for the work of the Holy Spirit in the history of Korea among all the sisters and brothers of the community of faith, uniting the whole church in service to the mission of the liberation and salvation of our people.

We confess the one God, Creator of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and we believe that all people are invited to become children of God (Romans 8: 14-17; Galatians 3:26, 4:7).

Jesus Christ came to this land as the "Servant of Peace" (Ephesians 2:13-19), to proclaim within division, conflict and oppression God's Kingdom of peace, reconciliation and liberation (Luke 4:18; John 14:27). Jesus Christ suffered, died upon the Cross, was buried, and rose in the Resurrection to reconcile humanity to God, to overcome divisions and conflicts, and to liberate all people and make them one (Acts 10:36-40). Jesus Christ blessed the_ peacemakers and called them the children of God (Matthew 5:9). We believe that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the eschatological future of history, will make us one, and enable us to become partners in God's mission (John 14:18-21; 16:13-14; 17:11).

We believe that all of us who are members of the churches of Korea have called to labor as apostles of peace (Colossians 3:15). God has commanded the Korean churches to undertake the mission of overcoming today's harsh reality of our one people divided north and south in confrontation, and we are thus obligated to work for the realization of unification and peace (Matthew 5:23-24).

With this confession of our faith as a foundation, the National Council of Churches in Korea hereby declares its position on peace and the reunification of our nation before the churches of Korea and the world ecumenical community, at the same time directing an appeal in the spirit of prayer to all our Korean compatriots and to the leaders of government in both north and south.

The Mission Tradition of the Korean Churches for Justice and Peace

The Protestant churches of Korea have proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this land for more than a century, and have committed many errors before the people of Korea during that time, yet these same churches, in their proclamation of the Kingdom of God, have devoted great efforts toward realizing the liberation and independence which have been the great hope of the Korean people. Our forebears in the faith received the Holy Spirit, and following the command of the Scriptures (Luke 4:18-19), they preached the Gospel to the poor, gave hope of liberty and independence to our oppressed people, and as they shared the suffering of the Korean people in their slavery under Japanese imperial rule, they resolutely pursued the mission of national liberation and independence.

The Christians of Korea could not, however, find the true meaning of peace within any ease or security they might be granted so long as they remained bowed like slaves in submission. Peace must be the fruit of justice (Isaiah 32:17), and a peace which did not include national independence or humane liberty could only be a false peace (Jeremiah 6:13-14). The peace movement of the Korean churches during Japanese imperial colonial rule was necessarily a movement for national independence which shared in the pain of our enslaved people, while preaching faith and the Kingdom of God inevitably implied the realization of those realities within history through the movement for national liberation.

The Christians of Korean marched in the forefront of the March First Independence Movement of 1919, resisted the Japanese imperial policy of annihilating Korean culture, and shed martyrs' blood in defiance of the Japanese deification of nationalism in the enforcement of Shinto worship.

After Korea was divided in 1945, the Christians of south Korea helped minister to needs of those victimized by the national separation, especially the suffering refugees, orphans, and others dislocated by war. The churches welcomed into their midst those from the north separated from their families or churches, offering them love and support.

As the national division hardened into a fixed reality, dictatorial military regimes emerged which repressed human rights in the name of security, and oppressed laborers and farmers under the logic of economic growth. The churches of Korea mounted resistance to such oppression through a faith which sought justice and peace. The Korean churches' movement in behalf of human rights and democratization in the 1970's and 1980's has thus been the direct heir to the enduring tradition of a mission movement for justice and peace.


The Reality of a Divided People

The division of the Korean peninsula is a sinful result of the present world political structure and existing ideological systems. The Korean nation has been forced to suffer as a sacrificial lamb at the hands of the world's superpowers as they pursue their involved struggles within their military and ideological confrontations.

The Korean people were liberated from their slavery under Japanese imperial colonial rule in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, but were immediately bound in the new fetters of division into north and south. The line of demarcation established in the name of disarming the aggressive Japanese imperial forces became fixed due to the Cold War structure between the Soviet Union and the United States. The northern and southern parts of Korea separately established different governments, and for over 40 years their mutual military, political and ideological conflicts and antagonisms have become ever more severe.

The Korean Conflict which began on June 25, 1950 brought about a tragic internecine war on the peninsula which intensified the international conflict. More tonnage in bombs was dropped on Korea than on the whole of Europe in the Second World War, reducing the entire peninsula to ashes. The Korean War resulted in 220,000 south Korean, over 600,000 north Korean, 1,000,000 Chinese, 140,000 American, and over 16,000 other United Nations military casualties, and if the number who died from disease during the War is included, some 2,500,000 soldiers' lives were sacrificed. If the 500,000 south Korean and 3,000,000 north Korean civilian casualties are added to that, the blood of six million persons was spilled upon the earth of this land (statistics from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1970 edition). In addition, three million refugees and ten million separated family members remained after this conflict.

In the time both preceding and following the Korean Conflict, the Christians of north Korea have endured suffering and death in their confrontation with the north Korean communist regime, leading hundreds of thousands of Christians from the north to leave their home communities and churches to endure the hardships of refugee life in their flight to the south. During the War a considerable number of south Korean Christians were kidnapped or subjected to cruel, tragic executions. Communist sympathizers became victims of ideological warfare and were ostracized from society, labelled as "traitors."

The Korean peninsula, which had been reduced to ashes in war, continued to live entangled in the international political conflict of the east-west Cold War structure, and as a result there was a steady escalation between the north and south in military competition, mutual distrust, reciprocal vilification and hostility. Peace on the peninsula was destroyed, and it became generally accepted that national reconciliation would be impossible for the Korean people.

The demarcation begun as an "armistice line" following the signing of the Armistice Agreement in 1953 soon hardened into a permanently unchangeable "border of division." As this wall of separation loomed ever higher, the two systems in north and south continued to become ever more aggressively hostile within this separation and confrontation. The military rivalry between north and south accelerated, until the state of armed readiness stood at 840,000 troops in the north, with 600,000 in the south, or nearly 1,500,000 troops on the peninsula. The nuclear weapons deployed here or targeted upon the peninsula alone constitute a destructive force more than sufficient to annihilate completely the people of Korea.

The prolongation of this division has led to abuses of human rights in both systems in the name of security and ideology, thus we have seen the repression of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and association. The complete suspension by both sides of postal service, travel, visitation and all other communication has resulted in the ironic situation of the two sections of one small land area becoming the two most distant and different countries on earth. The educational systems and propaganda of north and south share in mutual vilification, each setting the two systems in competition in order to weaken and destroy the other, always perceived as the most hated enemy. As a result the people of both north and south are not only kept in ignorance about the life and culture of their Korean compatriots, but have been trained to believe they must not know about one another. Thus both systems teach their people to believe that their blood brothers and sisters are the enemy most to be feared.

Dialogue between north and south was begun in 1972,-and the July 4th Joint Communique of that year raised hopes that this would become an opening leading to further dialogue, cooperation and exchange. Red Cross talks between north and south were reopened in 1985, and although some separated families were able to visit their home areas, the numbers involved were extremely limited, and as yet dialogue and negotiations remain completely at a standstill.

As late as the early 1980's the Christians of south Korea were not able so much as to verify the existence of a church or Christian believers in the north. The deep-seated mistrust and enmity toward the communist regime engendered during the hardening of the state of division continued unabated, and Christians remained blindly attached to a rigid anti-communist ideology


A Confession of the Sin of Hatred within Division

As we Christians of Korea publish this declaration for peace and reunification, we confess before God and our people that we have sinned: we have long harbored a deep hatred and hostility toward the other side within the structure of division.

1. The division of the Korean people has been the result of the structural evil reflected in the east-west confrontation of the world's superpowers in their Cold War system, and this reality has also been the root cause of the structural evil present within the societies of both north and south Korea. Within this state of division we have been guilty of the sin of violating God's commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-40).

Because of the division of our homeland, we have hated, deceived and murdered our blood compatriots, and have compounded this sin through political and ideological justification. Division has led to war, yet we Christians have committed the sin of endorsing the reinforcement of troops and further rearmament with the newest and most powerful weapons in the name of preventing another war (Psalms 33:16-20; 44:6-7)

Through this process the Korean peninsula has become dependent upon outside powers, not only militarily, but also in the political, economic and other spheres, and has been incorporated into and subjugated under the east-west Cold War structure. We Christians confess to having sinned during the course of this subjugation by abandoning our sense of national pride and betraying our people through forfeiting our spirit of national independence (Romans 9:3).

2. We confess that during the course of our national division the churches of Korea have not only remained silent and repeatedly ignored the ongoing movement for the autonomous reunification of spur people, but have further sinned by trying to justify the division. The christians of both north and south have made absolute idols of the ideologies imposed by their respective systems. This is a betrayal of the ultimate sovereignty of God (Exodus 20:3-5), and is a sin, for the church must obey the will of God rather than the will of political regimes (Acts 4:19).

We confess that the Christians of the south especially have sinned by making a virtual religious idol out of anticommunist ideology and have thus not been content merely to treat the communist regime in the north as the enemy, but have gone further and damned our northern compatriots and others whose ideology differs from our own (John 13:14-15; 4:20-21). Not only does this sin violate the commandment, it has also become the sin of indifference toward those neighbors who have suffered and continue to suffer because of our national division. It is furthermore the sin of failure to ameliorate their suffering through the love of Christ (John 13:17).


The Basic Principles of the Churches of Korea for National Reunification

We Christians must practice the Gospel of peace and reconciliation so that the just and peaceful Kingdom of God may come (Ephesians 2:14-17), and to bring this about we must share in the suffering of our people. Such participation is the only way our nation's reconciliation and reunification can be realized, thus concern and efforts in behalf of reunification are a matter of faith for us. By overcoming the division which threatens the life of the Korean people and endangers world peace, reunification becomes the way leading us from conflict and confrontation to reconciliation and coexistence, and finally to one community for our people.

The National Council of Churches in Korea has, through a series of consultations beginning in 1984, established the following basic principles for the churches as we look toward national reunification.

The National Council of Churches in Korea affirms the three broad principles articulated in the first north-south negotiated Joint Communique of July 4, 1972, namely (1) independence, (2) peace, and (3) a great national unity transcending differences in ideas, ideologies and systems, and believes that these should provide the guiding spirit informing our nation's reconciliation and reunification. In addition, we Christians believe that the following two further principles should also be honored in all dialogue, negotiation, and action for reunification.

1. Reunification must bring about not the common good and benefit of the people and the nation, it must also provide the maximum protection of human liberty and dignity. Since the people and the nation both exist to protect human freedom and welfare, while ideologies and systems also exist to serve humanity, primary consideration must always be given to humanitarian concerns and humane measures, and these must never be withheld by any government.

2. In every step of the formulation of proposals for reunification the full democratic participation of all members of society must be guaranteed. Most importantly, participation must be assured for the minjung (common people), who have not only suffered the most in the situation of division, but have been continuously alienated and excluded from the decision-making processes of society, despite their constituting the majority of the population.


Proposals of the Churches of Korea to the Governments of North and South

Following the above principles, the National Council of Churches in Korea urges the responsible authorities in the governments of both north and south to exert their utmost efforts to enable dialogue so that the following may be accomplished as soon as possible.

1. For the healing of the wounds caused by division
a. First of all, those separated families who have suffered in so many ways for over 40 years as victims of the division must be reunited and allowed to live together, and they must be guaranteed the right to move freely and locate wherever they choose to live.

b. Even before reunification is achieved, everyone living in separation from family members in north or south must be allowed to visit freely their relatives and home areas at definite times on an annual basis, perhaps at Chusok (the Korean autumn harvest festival) or some other holiday season.

c. The unjust social discrimination which still prevails against some persons because of their momentary errors or the past records of their family or relatives, problems inevitably arising during the solidifying of the national division, must be abolished at once.

2. For the promotion of the people's genuine participation in overcoming the division
a. Neither government, north or south, has the right to exercise a monopoly on information about the other nor to monopolize the discussion on reunification. Freedom of speech must be guaranteed so that the citizens of both north and south may participate freely in the discussion for establishing a policy of reunification, while there must be realistic, institutional guarantees of the activities of civilian organizations in the research and discussion of the reunification issue.

b. Both north and south Korea must permit maximum freedom for people who oppose either system or ideology to criticize freely according to their conscience and faith, and both must abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United nations' International Hyman Rights Covenant.

3. For a great national unity of the Korean people transcending differences in ideas, ideologies and systems
If Korea is to realize true national sovereignty, the people of both north and south will have to transcend their differences in ideas, ideologies and systems, and both populations must clearly confirm to their own satisfaction that they are one people sharing a common fate. Based upon such a mutual acknowledgment north and south Korea must together build a firm trust in one another. It follows that those things which enable mutual trust constitute the basic starting point for all efforts directed toward reunification. To foster such trust those factors which give rise to mistrust and hostility must be eliminated, while mutual exchanges should be expanded, both to broaden mutual understanding and to restore rapidly our , sense of common ethnic identity. Because all such measures aimed at fostering trust are the most essential condition for overcoming division, even if progress is not made toward discussions between the official representatives of the two governments and agreements are not forthcoming, there must also be nongovernmental channels through which citizens themselves may seek progress.

a. Both north and south Korea must terminate their mutual hostility and aggressive inclinations, and must eliminate the exclusivism which leads to the slandering and vilification of one other. In addition, each must modify its extreme, emotional censure of the other's differing ideology and system and offer in its place constructive criticism.

b . To promote mutual understanding north and south must each have unprejudiced, objective information about the other, so exchanges, visits and communications must be opened.

c. In order to restore the sense of common national identity, north-south exchanges and joint research should be promoted in such areas as language, history, geography, biology, and natural resources; while exchanges should take place in other areas such as culture, the arts, religion and sports.

d. Since economic exchanges between north and south will not only benefit the people, but also promote mutual understanding, they should be opened up as far as possible.

4. For reducing tensions and promoting peace between north and south Korea
a. In order to prevent war and reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula it is necessary to conclude a peace treaty and terminate the existing state of war. To this end it is urgent that the governments of north and south Korea, the United States, China, and others who participated in the Korean Conflict open negotiations designed to replace the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty which includes a non-aggression pact.

b. At such time that a peace treaty is concluded, a verifiable state of mutual trust is restored between north and south Korea, and there are international guarantees of the pace and security of the entire Korean peninsula, then United States troops should be withdrawn and the United Nations command in Korea should be dissolved.

c. The excessive military rivalry between north and south Korea is the greatest obstacle to peaceful reunification is moreover inimical to economic progress. Therefore a parallel reduction in military strength must follow mutual negotiations between north and south, and the reductions in military preparations must be reflected in a greater commitment to industrial production for peace.

d. Nuclear weapons must never be used under any circumstances, and as a matter of principle north and south Korea must unite to prevent any possibility of their use on the Korean peninsula. All nuclear weapons deployed on the peninsula or targeted in its direction must be removed.

5. For the realization of national independence
a. It is imperative that the Korean people protect their independence and self-determination, so there must be no outside interference or dependency upon neighboring nations or the superpowers in negotiations, conferences, or international agreements between north and south Korea.

b. Both north and south Korea must either revise or abrogate all diplomatic agreements and treaties which undermine rather than promote the life and interests of the Korean people. North and south Korea must also reach mutual agreement in regard to all international alliances and associations, examining them to make certain that the common good of all Koreans is their primary objective.


The Task of the Churches of Korea for Peace and Reunification

We believe that Jesus Christ is the "Lord of Peace" (Colossians 1:20), and that God's mission of salvation and liberation for humankind is being realized also within societies which have ideas and systems which differ from our own. Even though the confessions of faith and outward forms of the churches of Christians living in other societies may differ from ours, we believe that they are united in the one God and one Lord and are thereby joined with us as members of the one Body (I Corinthians 12:12-26).

In an astonishing way, the world ecumenical community has, within the last few years, greatly strengthened our conviction of this reality by bringing information about our sisters and brothers who live in north Korea and even enabling us to have direct contact with them.

Once again we offer our thanks for God's continuing work of liberation in the history of the Korean peninsula, and pray for God's grace and blessing upon our sisters and brothers who steadfastly endure in their faith even under difficult circumstances.

With this confession as the basis, the National Council of Churches in Korea, in order to fulfill its mission calling for peace and reconciliation, and in response to the historic summons to overcome the division of our people through sharing the suffering it has caused , in a spirit of repentance and prayer plans to launch the following movement for a Jubilee Year for Peace and Reunification.

1. The National Council of Churches in Korea proclaims the year 1995 to be the "Jubilee Year for Peace and Reunification."
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind.
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:18-19)

The "jubilee year" is the fiftieth year following the completion of a 49 year cycle of seven sabbatical years (Leviticus 25:8-10). The jubilee year is a "year of liberation." The proclamation of the jubilee year is an act of God's people which reveals their unshaking trust in God's sovereignty over history and their faithfulness in keeping God's covenant. The jubilee year is a time during which the covenant community of unity and peace is restored through the establishing of shalom based upon God's justice. This is seen in the liberation of the enslaved through the overcoming of all social and economic conflicts resulting from internal or external repression and absolutist power: indebtedness is forgiven, sold land is restored to its original tillers, and seized homes are returned to their original inhabitants (Leviticus 25:11-55).

The Korean churches proclaim 1995, the fiftieth year of our Liberation, as a Jubilee Year. This expresses our belief that the God who rules all history has been present within these fifty years of our history, and proclaims our firm resolution to bring about the restoration of the covenanted community of peace in the history of the Korean peninsula today. As we march forward with high aspirations toward this Jubilee Year, we should anticipate a revitalizing of our faith in the sovereign God who works within the history of our people, together with a renewing of our commitment to God's mission calling.

2. As a part of the "Great March toward the Jubilee Year" the Korean churches will carry forward a vigorous church renewal movement aimed toward peace and reunification.
a. In order to fulfill their mission responsibility for peace and reunification the Korean churches need to overcome their local self-centeredness and their preoccupation with ecclesiastical power, while greatly strengthening mission cooperation for church unity.

b. As they proclaim the Jubilee Year the churches of Korea must reform those internal structures which have restricted broad participation. Thus the churches must resolutely open and expedite a full participation in lay mission activity which will include women and youth.

c. In order to bring about economic and social justice in our society, the churches of Korea must continue to perform a prophetic role.

3. As a part of the proclamation of the Jubilee Year the churches of Korea, as a community of faith committed to the realization of peace and reunification, will carry out a broad program of education for peace and reunification.
a. To churches of Korea will widely disseminate Biblical and theological peace studies and peace education materials, and will promote research and the exchange of information among the various theological and Christian education institutions.

b. To increase concern about national reunification the Korean churches will promote reunification education that heightens awareness of the historical, social and theological validity of national reunification. A depended perception of the structure and history of national division will be sought, together with a deeper understanding of the theological dimensions of the state of division.

c. Building upon theological reflection and steadfast commitment to the Christian faith, the Korean churches will seek a broader scientific understanding of communist ideology, and will promote the research and education on ideology required for substantial conceptual dialogue.

4. Through the proclamation of the Jubilee Year festival and the creation of a liturgy for peace and reunification, the Korean churches will seek to bring about a renewal of faith, true reconciliation, and unity.
a. The churches of Korea will establish a "Sunday of Prayer for Peace and Reunification" to observe the Jubilee Year, and will develop a form of worship for this purpose. Included will be prayers for reunification, a confession of sin within division, a call to commitment for reunification, prayers of intercession for the victims of division and our divided people, a confession of faith for national reconciliation, the proclamation of the Word (proclaiming the Jubilee year), hymns and poetry, and a sacrament for peace and reconciliation.

b. Until the time when direct communication between the churches of north and south becomes possible, we will seek the cooperation of the world churches to enable the joint proclamation in both north and south of the Jubilee Year, will promote the common observance of the "Sunday of Prayer for Peace and Reunification," and will seek the joint preparation and use of "prayers for peace and reunification."

c. With the cooperation of the world churches, the Korean churches will search for ways to confirm the status of separated family members, explore the possibility of exchanging letters, and develop a movement for searching out relatives, church members and friends separated north from south.

5. The Korean churches will work unceasingly to build a movement for solidarity in the cause of peace and reunification.
a. The proclamation of the Jubilee Year for Peace and Reunification, proceeding from the churches' confession of faith, will be developed as a continuously widening "solidarity movement for peace and reunification." This must be a comprehensive movement, embracing all the churches on the local, denominational, and ecumenical levels. The National Council of Churches in Korea especially will exert efforts to include not only its member churches, but also non-member denominations and the Roman Catholic Church in this movement for confessional action and practice seeking peace and reunification.

b. As the mission calling to peace and reunification is the universal task of all Christians on the Korean peninsula, the churches of south Korea will pray for the faith and life of the Christian community in the north, and will work for north-south exchanges between our churches.

c. Because peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula are crucial to peace not only in Northeast Asia but throughout the world, the Korea churches will seek to consult closely and to develop movements for solidarity with the churches of the four powers in the region, the United States, the Soviet Union, China and Japan, as well as with churches throughout the world.*

d. The churches of Korea will expand and deepen dialogue with other religious groups and movements, and through joint research and cooperative activity will seek to promote greater solidarity for peace and the reunification of this nation.

February 29, 1988
The National Council of Churches in Korea



* Such activity is already in progress, and the National Council of Churches in Korea endorses the proposals and positions which have been expressed in such published consultation reports as: "Findings and Recommendations" of the 1984 Consultation in Tozanso, Japan; Message of the Fourth Korean-North American Church Consultation of 1986; the policy statement and declaration of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., "Peace and the Reunification of Korea," 1986;and the joint statement of the Sixth Korean-German Church Consultation, 1987.


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