By Philippa Hitchen
Religious leaders in Korea have appealed to the United States. China, Russia and Japan to support this week’s summit between Seoul and Pyongyang.
In a statement, the Korean Conference of Religions for Peace (KCRP), supported by Archbishop Kim Hee-joong, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said the country “is longing for” the arrival of a “springtime of peace”.
Ahead of Friday’s meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in, the statement recalls that the division between the two parts of the peninsula is the last barrier left by the Cold War.
Pursue dialogue and understanding
The religious leaders call on the governments of the north and south to fulfil their obligations to pursue dialogue and mutual understanding. The statement urges the North Korean leadership to take advantage of the opportunity to “break the chains that have bound and limited this land for over seventy years”.
They also appeal to all political leaders involved in the rapprochement process to back these efforts at reconciliation, adding that “the United States is a key country for bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula”. They call on the U.S., China, Russia and Japan to support the summit, as well as a planned meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader next month.
Pope prays for reconciliation
On Wednesday Pope Francis also prayed for a successful outcome of this week’s encounter, describing it as an opportunity for “transparent dialogue and a concrete path to reconciliation” in order to guarantee peace on the peninsula and throughout the world.
Speaking at his general audience in St Peter’s Square, the Pope assured the people of Korea of his prayers, adding that the Holy See “accompanies, supports and encourages every useful and sincere initiative” to build peace and friendship between peoples. He urged all political leaders to have “the courage of hope” and to become builders of peace.
Meeting in Demilitarised Zone
Kim Jong-un is due to meet Moon Jae-in at 9.30 in the morning local time (just after midnight GMT), marking the first time a north Korean leader has crossed the military demarcation line since the end of the Korean war over 60 years ago.
The two will meet in the Demilitarized Zone between their two countries, which are still technically at war since a peace treaty was never signed when the war ended in 1953.