A letter from Choon Lim serving as Regional Liaison for East Asia, based in South Korea
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On September 13, 2015, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PRK) and the Presbyterian Church of the Republic of Korea (PROK) will meet to celebrate their 100th General Assembly at Imjingak near the DMZ. It will be my honor to present to that gathering the following reflections on Ephesians 2:14-16.
Repent, Forgive and Reconcile to Be Peacemakers
“Being in Imjingak brings to mind many memories. I lived in Ilsan, near here, before I immigrated to the United States. I was born in Nampo, North Korea, and my mother, elder brother and I came to Ilsan without my father during the Korean War. Since then I have not seen my father. My family lost all their properties and I lost my father. Here I saw Freedom Bridge in1953 when 12,773 Korean War prisoners crossed this bridge and returned to South Korea. Here I saw the Steam Train that went from Pyongyang from Gaesung with military supplies. As Chinese soldiers became involved in the Korean War, the train came to Changdan station in the DMZ. In 2004 it was moved to this place. Here I heard the Peace Bell that rang out 21 times on January 1, 2000, wishing for peace in the 21st century. Most of all, here you can see many separated families who come to pray and to tie yellow ribbons on the border fence wishing for Korean reunification. Today we gather in this historic place to worship God together. For me, this is a very moving and meaningful worship service.
“August 15, 2015, marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Korean people from Japanese occupation and the division of Korea. The independence from the harsh colonial rule came to the Korean people as a gift as World War II ended. When I was growing up in Korea, the day was the most celebrated national holiday. I can hardly imagine the jubilation and excitement that the Korean people felt that day.
“However, the jubilation didn’t last long. Soon the Korean peninsula was divided into South and North and each side was occupied by foreign powers: Russia in the North and America and allies from the U.N. in the South. After 70 years the division still exists and 10 million families continue to be separated. I can hardly imagine the heartache, pain and suffering of those who are separated from their loved ones. People separated in their 20s are now in their 90s, if they are still alive. My mother is now 89 years old and lives alone in Chicago.
“The cease-fire of 1953 created a demilitarized zone 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide that separated South and North. The DMZ is one of the places where the most military power is concentrated in the world today. It is only 35 miles from Seoul. I had an opportunity to visit Panmunjeom last year, and this year I visited the border from the North Korean side. But I had to go to China first, then to Pyongyang and then on to the border. I felt sad throughout the journey because it should take only a few minutes to cross the border, but I had to travel for 3 days to get to the North Korean side of the border.
“Seventy years is more than enough. There must be a breakthrough. Please join me in ardent prayer that the Lord will have mercy and keep peace in the Korean peninsula and hasten the day of reunification, but only by peaceful means. I don’t want to see any war for Korean reunification.
“Today’s passage tells us that Christ Jesus himself is our peace. Christ can make the two one and destroy the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. As we pray for Korean reunification, we ask Christ to make North and South Korea one and destroy the barrier, the DMZ, that is the dividing wall of hostility. Christ’s purpose was to create in himself one new humanity. So we need to create one new humanity out of North and South Korea with Christ’s help. To do that, both North and South must reconcile to God through the cross, by which Christ put to death their hostility. Only in this way can we achieve peace on the Korean peninsula.
“I have a wristband on my wrist. On it are my three catchwords: Repent, Forgive, Reconcile. For reunification we first need to repent ourselves. When we repent, God gives us power and strength to forgive our enemies. And then we can reconcile with each other. We do this with Agape, the unconditional love that Jesus showed on the cross.
“Personally I have tried this and it worked very well. In 2004 I planned to visit Pyongyang to see my stepbrothers and sisters. But I couldn’t forgive North Korea and my father. Because of them, I had met much hardship and suffering in my life. So I refused to visit North Korea and meet my siblings. While I was praying, I began to see my own sins and started to repent of them, and suddenly I gained the strength to forgive North Korea and my father. Through that experience, I decided to visit North Korea to meet my siblings. After meeting three younger brothers and two younger sisters, I went to visit my father’s tomb. I still remember the experience. From the beginning to the end, I couldn’t stop crying; I couldn’t say a word. But through the experience I forgave my father and reconciled with him. I accepted my physical father—I had had only a spiritual father before—and since then I have met with my siblings five times. They have become my real family.
“I had the 38th parallel, the DMZ, in my heart. I am sure some of you carry the 38th parallel in your hearts as well. The 38th parallel is the hate, injustice, pain and suffering in our lives. We need to destroy them through repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Then we become a new humanity, peacemakers. Through our efforts, it will be a more peaceful world. That is why Jesus blessed the peacemakers (Mt. 5:9).
“Koreans refer to August 15 as ‘Kwang-Bok-Jeol,’ meaning ‘a season of light recovered.’ The light is now only half lit over the Korean peninsula. We put our trust and hope in Jesus Christ, who came as the light of the world. Let the light of Christ shine over the people in North and South Korea. I ask you, sisters and brothers, to remember Korea and its people, particularly those who are separated from loved ones. Please pray for them.
“Finally, please remember my catchwords: Repent, Forgive, Reconcile. By going through this process you can destroy the dividing wall of hostility with help from Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace. As we all become a new humanity, peacemakers, there will be hope in the Korean peninsula and all over the world. Amen.”
Please remember Presbyterian World Mission’s financial crisis. Please support my ministry and the ministry of my colleagues throughout the world so that mission co-workers can continue to serve where they are. Your gifts and your prayers sustain us in God’s mission.
Rev. Choon S. Lim
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 243
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