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137 religious leaders call for inter-Korean dialogue

Criticizing the Lee administration’s current policy, leaders said policy should aim at preventing war and establishing peace

Elder representatives of the religious sector and civic society sit behind a banner that reads “There must not be any more war on the peninsula” during a press conference at the Korea Press Foundation,

A total of 137 elders and leaders from the country’s six main religious groups - Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Won-Buddhism, Cheondoism, and Sungkyunkwan - along with civil society issued an appeal Wednesday urging efforts between North Korea and South Korea to “prevent war and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

“There must not be any more war on the peninsula,” the appeal stated.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Korea Press Foundation in Seoul’s Jung District, the leaders called for a halt to all aggressive military actions and provocative statements and behavior between North Korea and South Korea and the formulation of basic measures to establish a firm national security posture and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“What we need now is a firm determination and efforts from Korean society to maintain peace,” the leaders said.

The leaders also said that such measures for peace “must start with the restoration of dialogue between North Korea and South Korea.”

“North Korea and South Korea must work together through dialogue to find a plan for preventing military clashes in the West Sea and establishing peace,” they said.

A number of conservatives also joined progressives to participate in Wednesday’s appeal. Protestant participants includes not only National Council of Churches in Korea General Secretary Kim Young-ju on the progressive side but also conservative figures like Christian Council of Korea Chairman Rhee Kwang-sun and Chairman-elect Kiel Ja-yeon, Korea Evangelical Fellowship General Secretary Kim Myung-hyuk, and Yoido Full Gospel Church's Rev. Lee Yong-hoon.

Kim Myung-hyuk said, “Now is not a time for speaking of hope, but a time for wailing and weeping.”

“It is fortunate that the CCK and NCC, the twin pillars of the Protestant church, can come together with a desire to achieve peace,” he added.

Among Buddhists, leaders participated from the four major orders, including Jogye Order administrative head Jaseung, Taego Order administrative head Ingong, Cheontae Order administrative head Jeongsan, and Jingak Order head Hyejeong. Also participating were the head monks of Tongdo, Haein, and Songgwang Temples, referred to as the “three jewels.”

Venerable Yeongdam, head of the Jogye Order’s administrative division, said that the Lee Myung-bak administration’s “Vision 3000” plan “is a failed policy that could not achieve North Korean denuclearization and openness or a $3,000 income for North Koreans.”

“Now, we must change the policy and proceed into dialogue,” he urged.

Other participants included Won-Buddhism administrative director Kim Ju-won, Cheondoism head Im Un-gil, and Sungkyunkwan head Choi Geun-deok.

Representatives from civil society included Seoul National University Emeritus Professor Paik Nak-chung, Committee for Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration South Korean branch Chairperson Kim Sang-geun, Peace Institute Director Yun Yeo-jun, Korean Sharing Movement Co-chairman In Myeon-jin, former Republic of Korea National Red Cross Chief Suh Young-hoon, Green Asia head Son Bong-ho, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy Co-representative Chung Hyun-baek, Hope Institute executive director Park Won-soon. It also included novelists Jo Jeong-rae, Hwang Sok-yong, and Hyeon Gi-yeong, poet Shin Gyeong-rim, and attorneys Han Seung-heon, Park Jae-seung, Lee Seok-tae, Ha Chang-woo, and Baek Seung-heon.

In said, “Peace cannot be maintained simply through weapons, and the most important ways of preserving peace are through various exchanges between North Korea and South Korea and humanitarian aid to North Korea.”

“I hope the government acknowledges its error and remedies it,” In added.

Tags: political news

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