South Korean Christians in plea for peace

A group of Christians visiting Scotland have issued a fresh plea for peace and reconciliation amid simmering tensions around the Korean Peninsula.

Tree
Representatives of the National Council of Churches in Korea took part in a special service in Linlithgow at the Scottish Korean War Memorial.

The delegation, from South Korea, which attended a special service at the Scottish Korean War memorial in Linlithgow with veterans of the 1950s conflict, said it was a “critical time” in the volatile region.

The plea from representatives of the National Council of Churches in Korea comes amid heightened tension in the area, with North Korea testing nuclear weapons in a show of strength and the United States seeking China’s help to rein in the state's dictator.

An armistice ended the Korean War in July 1953 but a formal peace treaty has never been signed and the peninsula remains one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is in Washington DC this week and will meet with President Trump today.

President Moon has signaled that he will seek to improve relationships with North Korea, partly through an economic cooperation programme which could help improve living standards in the country.

Bora
Korean War Veterans with South Korea delegates, Rev Dr JunSoo Park, Bora Shin and their two boys, Daniel and Timothy.

Peace campaign

The delegation, which is running a Peace Treaty Campaign for reconciliation and reunification, visited the war memorial, the only one of its kind in the UK, on Wednesday.

They sang, shared stories and offered prayers for peace as well as installing a plaque beside a newly planted tree at the service.

Rev Lee Moon-Sook, vice-chair of the Reconciliation and Reunification committee of the National Council of Churches in Korea said: “We have been working on peace and reunification for a long time.

“We feel this is a critical time because we have so many things threatening the Korean Peninsula.

“So for the last four years we have been working to bring about a peace treaty instead of the armistice.

“This trip is to share our concerns about reconciliation and reunification.

“So it is great to be here and specifically to see veterans who served in the Korean War from 1950-53.”

The minister told the veterans that it was “really touching and moving” to meet them and their service was appreciated.

“Your presence here is really inspiring and it reminds me of what we have to do for our country and for the world – reconciliation and peace,” she said.

Korean delegates
The South Korean visitors posed alongside Scottish hosts at the Scottish Korean War Memorial.

Sacrifices

The Lord-Lieutenant of West Lothian, Isobel Brydie, Provost of West Lothian Council, Tom Kerr, Church of Scotland members and 22 delegates from partner churches in South Korea attended the Healing and Reconciliation service.

Rev Scott Marshall, minister at Abercorn, Pardovan, Kingscavil and Winchburgh churches, who helped lead the prayers for peace said: “We stand in this place and reflect on the history of our nations and the conflict that ensued.

“We stand before the names of lives sacrificed and we share the pain of Korean lives whose names are unknown to us.

“We recall the past with resolution to love peace and work for peace and live peaceably.”

Rev Kim Young Ju, from the Korean delegation, said it was touching to meet the war veterans

He told them: “We really appreciate all your efforts and sacrifice and we thank you.

“We believe that to really honour the sacrifices you made for the Korean people we need to do one more thing.

“We need reconciliation between North and South Korea.”

Plaque
A tree was planted and a plaque erected at Scottish Korean War memorial in Linlithgow.

Hope for healing

Under the tree a plaque was placed, written in English and Korean which reads:

“This Tree is planted in hope for healing and reconciliation; for all who died and were wounded, and for all who continue to suffer because of division on the Korean Peninsula.”

Ms Brydie and Mr Kerr led the group in procession to the Scottish Korean War Memorial, following Rev Dr JunSoo Park who held up a Bible.

Addressing the delegation, the Provost said: “We’re here today really as an Act of Remembrance, but also to promote the idea of healing and reconciliation.

“I was touched by your grateful thanks for all the 1,089 members of the British Armed Forces who lost their lives for you currently to enjoy a democracy and freedom in South Korea.

“It would also be my wish that the Korean Peninsula as a whole could enjoy the same democracy and freedom.”

John Cumming, secretary of the Scottish Korean Veterans Club, said his links to South Korea have grown stronger in the decades since his service.

He now exchanges letters, through a South Korean government initiative, with a 16-year-old South Korean girl who has asked him to be her Honorary Scottish grandfather.

Mr Cumming, who served in the Royal Air Force, said: “I am delighted to be asked to speak because the thing that has impressed me is that every time we meet you Koreans is the generosity, not only in material things, but in the way you look after us.

“We were all 20-year-olds when the war happened and we are forever grateful for the good feelings that we have every time that we meet amongst you.

“We must hope and do hope that this continues for as long as it can.”

Rev Dr John Ross
Rev Dr John Ross.

A special connection

After the ceremonies, the group shared lunch at St Michael’s Parish Church Cross House.

They were treated to Korean dishes prepared by Bora Shin, who has been living in Scotland for the last three years with her husband, Rev Dr Park JunSoo, who is a researcher at Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity.

Rev Shin Seung Min said Korean Christians have a special connection to Scotland because it was Balintore-born missionary, Rev Dr John Ross, who translated the New Testament into Korean and helped establish Christianity in Korea.

Dr Ross, who was an elder at Mayfield Salisbury Church of Scotland in Edinburgh and is buried in the city, served in north-east China.

While there he met traders from Korea and went on to make a Korean translation of the New Testament, which he finished in 1887.

Rev Shin Seung Min said: “We will always remember John Ross as the Father of the Korean church.

“We cannot talk about the Korean Church without acknowledging everything he did to bring the Presbyterian church to Korea.”

Rev Shin also praised the Scottish war veterans.

“You sacrificed for us, for the Korean people, and now democracy in Korea has flourished,” he added.

“We really appreciate you and your sacrifice.”

Prayer
Peter Kershaw, West Lothian Presbytery's World Mission convener helped lead the prayers for peace