Korean United Methodists appeal for prayer

A peace committee shouting “"End armistice!” and “Peace treaty now!" marches from Foundry United Methodist Church to the White House in Washington during a rally on July 27, 2014. Korean-American United Methodists are hopeful as the United States and North Korea prepare for a possible summit in June.
A peace committee shouting “"End armistice!” and “Peace treaty now!" marches from Foundry United Methodist Church to the White House in Washington during a rally on July 27, 2014. Korean-American United Methodists are hopeful as the United States and North Korea prepare for a possible summit in June.

Expectations and hopes among Korean-American United Methodists are rising high because of the possibility of the summit between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), and they have been praying for its success.

The peace committee of The Korean United Methodist Church is asking for prayers for the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit on June 12 in Singapore. The National Christian Council in Korea also will initiate the prayer campaign in South Korea before and during the summit and have written a prayer.

The relationship between the United States and North Korea has been a hostile one since 1948, when North Korea declared its independence as a nation. However, the summit has shaken the foundation of Korean Americans’ thoughts, theology, and philosophy. Korean Christians, once expressing hatred and anger toward North Korea, now express hope for peace.

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The Revs. James Chongho Kim (right) and Kun Sam Cho hold crosses symbolizing the two Koreas, during a report from the Committee on Peace by the Korean Association of the United Methodist Church May 19 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. File photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

“The foundation of Korean-American Christians’ theology and philosophy has been drastically shaken since the U.S. and North Korea began their talks,” said the Rev. TJ Kim, pastor of Salem Korean United Methodist Church in Schaumburg, Illinois. “The talks weren’t imagined ever before … now it has become reality.”

Kim is known as an outspoken leader of conservative Korean churches in Northern Illinois, but the summit challenged him deeply.

“Is there any bigger issue than the nuclear bomb of North Korea in The United Methodist Church?” Kim asked. “Is there any more serious difference in the church than the difference between America and North Korea?”

The summit gives him hope that other divides can be overcome.  “Now that Mr. Trump going to meet Kim Jong Un, then why can’t we live and embrace ... in the church over the issue of human sexuality?”

Kim asks the church to pray for peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula. “The Hebrew people marched around the city of Jericho once a day for six days, and nothing happened,” he said. “The seventh day they marched around the city once, twice, six times but still nothing happened. But after the seventh round of the seventh day, the Jericho wall collapsed.

“Prayer sometimes works like that. The day comes suddenly like thieves. The change in the Korean peninsula comes like that. ... So we have to pray constantly and faithfully.”

The Rev. Jae Lew, pastor of Valley Korean United Methodist Church in Granada Hills, California, is the newly elected president of the Korean United Methodist Churches’ Association.

He leads his church to pray for peace in the Korean peninsula every Sunday, and nowadays he encourages his church to pray for the successful summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un. He was one of the Korean pastors who wrote an adopted resolution to the California Pacific Annual Conference.

The resolution urges “the U.S. government to take a step further for bilateral diplomatic and human contacts between the United States and North Korea.” It also encourages the California-Pacific Conference to “promote the awareness and prayerful engagement for peace in the Korean Peninsula and for reunification between the two Koreas.”

The Rev. James Chongho Kim, pastor of Flushing First United Methodist Church in New York, has been a leader in the peace and democratic movement in the Korean American church and community.

“I want to serve a church in North Korea,” said Kim. “The reunification between South and North Koreas may not happen in the near future. However, if the summit is held successfully, North Korea will soon be open, and there will be a great missional opportunity for Korean churches and a tremendous missional energy in Korean-American churches.

“It is better to pay a peace cost than to pay a cost for a war. Peace is not a just political language, but biblical because it is of Jesus’ teaching,” Kim said.

The 1988 United Methodist General Conference adopted and passed a resolution calling for peace and reconciliation of the Koreas. The denomination has also supported North Koreans through the “Five Loaves and Two Fish” mission of the Korean United Methodist Churches’ Association for the past 25 years to feed hungry North Korean children and provide other humanitarian materials.

The Rev. We Hyun Chang, the chair of the association’s peace committee, welcomes the talks.

“Peace is a human right,” he said. “Everyone has right to live without any threat or fear of a war.”

Noting that “poverty is inhumane,” Chang said he hopes the summit will produce peace and cause economic sanctions on North Korea to be lifted. “Economic sanctions kill children and old people in North Korea,” he added.  

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung was born and raised in Kwang Hwa Do in South Korea, which is near the border between two Koreas. When he was eight years old, his friend died while swimming in the sea because of a landmine that had drifted into the water.

Jung said the summit is not only a political matter but also a personal matter, a process of normalizing, healing, and restoring his spirit and mind.

The normalization of the U.S.-North Korea diplomatic relationship is very crucial for the mission of the church, Jung said. With peace, talks and meetings with the Chosun Christian Association, the official North Korean Christian Organization, are possible. It is even possible that they could be a mission partner, and a window for mission in North Korea opens, he added.

Jung emphasized that the church is called to be a peacemaker that works for reconciling and healing in a church and among nations and peoples.

Finally, he also appealed for prayer from all United Methodists for the summit.

“The meeting between the leaders of two Koreas was because of prayers. Now is the time to pray for the summit between the U.S. and North Korea. Prayer works for all the time for all purposes,” he said.

Kim is director of Korean and Asian news at United Methodist Communications. Contact him at 615-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

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