MCC photo/Ron Byler
It’s been more than 60 years since the ceasefire that ended the Korean War, but to this day the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) do not have an official peace and the divide remains great.
In the last months of 2018, MCC Canada Executive Director Rick Cober Bauman and MCC U.S. Executive Director Ron Byler visited North Korea and South Korea respectively as part of MCC’s ongoing work in the region. According to Cober Bauman, it was when he returned to Canada that he realized the deep importance of the ongoing peacemaking work being done there.
“There’s a consistent response I get,” says Cober Bauman. “‘You mean they let you out of North Korea?’ And I have to stop and remind myself that we get almost daily messages in the West about why we shouldn’t like and shouldn’t trust the people of North Korea.”
MCC photo/Rick Cober Bauman
False messages like this are damaging to MCC’s objective of peace and reconciliation in the two countries. Current MCC projects in North Korea include providing relief in the form of canned meat and clean water to three children’s hospitals, working with agricultural science experts on conservation agriculture and advocacy to the U.S. government for policies that address the concerns of both parties through dialogue, diplomacy and mutual respect.
“A wise colleague at MCC said that, like all walls, eventually the wall that divides North Korea from South Korea will come down,” said Cober Bauman. “And when it does, MCC wants to have friends on both sides.”
A wise colleague at MCC said that, like all walls, eventually the wall that divides North Korea from South Korea will come down.
MCC’s initial involvement in South Korea began in 1951, after the beginning of the Korean War, and concluded in 1971. It wasn’t until 2002 that the Korea Anabaptist Center invited MCC back into the area to provide global exchange opportunities for young adults.
“Today, MCC is back in South Korea and its ministry focuses on providing peace education in the northeast Asia region, being a reconciliatory presence within the two Koreas and providing exchange opportunities for young adults from Korea, Northeast Asia and North America to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus,” wrote Byler in a blog post about his trip. (See video below.)
In 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Chairman Kim Jong-un held a series of summits to discuss how to move their nations forward into peace, stability and reconciliation. As citizens of both countries await the finalization and implementation of such agreements, MCC will continue its program and advocacy efforts that support the people of North Korea and South Korea.