The following message was shared with the Northern Illinois Conference by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, who will be coming to Wisconsin as our Bishop beginning September 1st:
A Pastoral Letter for Healing and Reconciliation of Korea Today is known as Liberation Day throughout Korea, a day we celebrate when the Korean peninsula was free of Japanese colonial rule and military occupation in 1945. Yet even as we celebrate, still the people suffer. We have seen that visibly during the last few weeks as flooding has taken its toll across the Asia Pacific area, from the Philippines to Korea. I pray with a heavy heart for the families of hundreds who have been lost in North Korea. It is a critical time for the weakest and most vulnerable. As the words of Psalms 82 reminds us, we are to "rescue the weak and the needy."
My heart is also heavy today because even as we celebrate Liberation Day, Korea is still not united. The artificial boundaries imposed on it after the ceasefire in 1953 still exist, and the conflict continues. The economic embargo and the restricted relationships in Korea mean that these disasters are more harmful, meaning more will die and more families will continue to be separated. So many yearn for reunion, yet national policies have favored isolation and separating the countries from each other. Instead of providing for those in need, governments have instead turned to increasing their military arsenals. As Isaiah 55:2 asks, "Why do we spend for that which is not bread and labor for that which does not satisfy?" The increased isolation, sanctions on North Korea, and military buildup will not help those in need.
As I pour out my prayer to God on this day, I ask, "O God, how long can we justify the separation and division of the Korean people?" All of us are created by God and welcomed to Christ's table. Our faith confirms that God cares for all, especially the weakest. We read in Deuteronomy 10:18 about how God gives justice for orphans and widows, and all those who sojourn, giving them food and clothing. Today, may we give of ourselves as we have all been welcomed by Christ. We call on all governments to overturn divisions, making reunification of Korea a stated policy goal. We call on the U.S. State Department and others to give humanitarian aid to the DPRK (North Korea), not just as a one-time gift, but to take a step towards normalizing relationships with them.
On this Liberation Day, I invite you to work and pray with me. Together, may we lift our voice for reconciliation and healing for the peninsula and for all in the Korean diaspora. May this day be a day that leads to a new dawn.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
To give financially, send your check to the Wisconsin Conference UMC Treasurer for International Advance #982450 and put KOREA in the memo line. UMCOR has already released some funds for those impacted by the Korean floods and continues to work throughout the Asia Pacific area.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).