The annual South Korea-U.S. military drills began again on Feb 24, 2014 and will last until April 18th. The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) opposes these annual drills which began in 1976. They see them as military threats. The U.S. and South Korea engage in these drills as defense exercises in case of a North Korean invasion. As a result, North Korea shoots their missiles into the water to show that they are not afraid of South Korea or the U.S.
This ongoing strain certainly does not help the relations between North and the South. Last year during the military drills, the DPRK threatened nuclear strikes against South Korea and the U.S.
These actions and threats show that both nations are not afraid to fight and are willing to fight. As the military drills occur there is much tension and stress between South and North Korea as well as between the U.S. and North Korea. This cycle must be broken to bring healing.
During these times of heated rhetoric and threats, no one feels safe. The North assume that the South is practicing for an attack, the South believe that the North can invade at any time. The tensions are always there as each want to protect their own land and own people.
As these threats and difficulties are repeated, it creates a cycle of more threats and disappointments with no real visible road to reconciliation and unity. The cycle continues and people continue to suffer the consequences of a divided country. It continues to provoke resentment, hatred, insecurity and distrust.
Talks of war and nuclear warfare do not break down barriers. It brings fears. It reinforces a stalemate. At this time we do not need a stalemate.
Rather we need to work towards breaking the cycle of pain. The U.S. can strike and North Korea can strike back. If the pain is not addressed, it continues on the cycle which perpetuates suffering. If this cycle of pain is not broken, it will spiral suffering outward, to include more countries and raise the risk of one party or another breaking the cycle by open aggression. This cycle needs to be halted. The strongest of the two will break the cycle and break the cycle of the tension. We need to replace this cycle of threats with a reunification cycle.
We can disband conflict and contention. We can prevent a strike and prevent fear. Therefore, it is important to break this cycle and work towards resolving suspicions between the two Koreas. We can works towards reconciliation and have families reunited. We can build bridges between nations and work for peace.
In the mix of the difficulties of the tension between the North and South is the story of Kenneth Bae. Kenneth Bae is a U.S. citizen who is in prison in North Korea and serving a 15-year sentence. There have been many U.S. State Department efforts to release him. Ambassador King’s invitations to North Korea have been rebuffed twice.
As we continue to fight for Kenneth Bae’s release we make a moral appeal to the North Korean government. Kenneth Bae has confessed to being guilty of the charge that North Korea has put upon him and he has publicly apologized. His family in the U.S. has also publicly apologized for his mistake. At this time, we ask for mercy and on humanitarian grounds seek his release. His health has not been good and it is now time to bring him back home.
As we work towards peace within a world which continues to exercise military might and continue to threaten the cycle of pain with threats of war, we need to work towards realizing hope for one another and reconciliation between nations. We need to have diplomatic initiatives so that the two Koreas can be reunited. We cannot settle for eternal war. We need to work for peace. We need to build a movement towards hope and reconciliation. Perhaps then we can have hope to bring Kenneth Bae back home.
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The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. On August 9, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Reverend Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University. She is the author of 5 books, Contemplations from the Heart (forthcoming), Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers, Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit, The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology & The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology. She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.