The bishop of Daejeon, who is the national president of Justice and Peace, expresses his satisfaction for tomorrow's meeting in Panmunjom between the delegations from the North and the South. He praises President Moon’s "patience and perseverance" and Kim Jong-un’s "new, softer language". He hopes that reunions between divided families will resume.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – "The Korean Church has prayed and is praying for the talks between the two Koreas, and for tomorrow's meeting to be successful. I'm happy, very happy," said Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, who spoke to AsiaNews about the forthcoming meeting between the delegations from North and South Korea in the village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone.
Tomorrow's meeting will take place after two years of tears and tensions caused by the North’s repeated rocket launches and by the uncompromising attitude of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
"We have arrived at this appointment thanks to the patience and perseverance of President Moon Jae-in who never stopped holding the door open to meeting with the North, even at the most intense moments of the last months,” the bishop said.
“Moon also met with Xi Jinping and reviewed with him the issue of the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system, criticised so much by China. Unlike what happened with former President Park, they reached an agreement."
The turning point came with Moon’s invitation to involve North Korean athletes in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and with the acceptance by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
"In President Kim Jong-un's New Year address, there was a new, softer language. He said many times that the North and the South are 'one people, one race' and expressed the desire for a meeting, tomorrow’s.”
“The opportunity to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is essential. We hope that North Korean athletes can come, but also many fans: sport, culture can unite us more. Above all, coming together undermines prejudices and confirms that with we cannot reach peace with weapons."
Immediately after the announcement, the hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang was reactivated and the date of the meeting was set for 9 January. Tomorrow, the Korean delegations will talk about the Olympics, but [South Korea’s] Unification Ministry said today that it will try to put family reunions back on the agenda.
Following Korea’s division in 1953, many families found themselves divided between the South and the North, unable to see each other. At present, some 60,000, aging people still hope to meet their relatives before dying. The last family reunion was held in 2015.
"The issue of families is a heart-wrenching issue because it highlights the whole story of suffering in the two Koreas,” Mgr You said.
“Afterwards we hope that cooperation at the Kaesong industrial complex and at Mount Kumgang Tourist Region can restart. They provide an opportunity for exchanges and dialogue that allow the growth of trust and collaboration between the two Koreas ".