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The Religious Left Recognizes the (South) Korean Threat By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 10, 2008


Making a very slow exit, the outgoing chief of the Swiss-based World Council of Churches is gravely alarmed about South Korea’s new conservative government shifting away from easy détente with the Stalinist North Korea.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak was elected in December, and inaugurated in February, after having criticized his left of center predecessors for their “Sunshine” policy of “appeasement” towards Kim Jong Il.  That policy emphasized economic cooperation with North Korea at the expense of any human rights critique of the world’s most brutal regime.   In its place, Lee has offered a “Denuclearization, Opening and Vision 3000” policy that would economically reward North Korea only after it denuclearizes and shows advances on human rights.  

Naturally, the World Council of Churches, which never found a Marxist tyranny it could not warmly coddle, much preferred South Korea’s previous “Sunshine” policy, which funneled endless aid into North Korean coffers without reciprocity.  South Korea’s cash strewn detente with Kim Jong Il further enriched the dictator and his infamous military/police apparatus.  

The WCC, which never expresses a peep about North Korea’s brutal police state, is quite concerned about South Korea’s new expectation of reciprocity from North Korea, instead of just endless, cost-free bribes.  So soon to retire WCC chief Samuel Kobia has implored President Lee to reconsider.

“Your Excellency, we see this shift in South Korea’s policy toward North Korea as potentially hindering the efforts for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula,” Kobia wrote Lee in a July 1 letter.  “ It is in this context, on behalf of the World Council of Churches and its member constituencies all over the world, that I urge you to take all possible measures to avoid any deterioration of inter-Korean relations.”

Kobia observed to President Lee that he WCC has been “monitoring” the Korean Peninsula for  several decades.   By “monitoring,” Kobia means that the WCC has tirelessly advocated full U.S. withdrawal from South Korea and reunification with North Korea, while ignoring the seeming inconsequentiality that North Korea is ruled by a deranged tyrant who alternates between starving and brutalizing his suffering population.  The WCC prefers to ignore North Korea’s impoverishing communism and militarism as the root cause of the Koreas’ division, preferring instead to blame the U.S. and its allies in South Korea.

In a bid for some spiritual fig leaf, Kobia attached a WCC reunification prayer for President Lee’s consideration.

We cry to you out of the depths of despair over the division of Korea,

Which is the victim of a divided world.

You came to this world as a Servant of Peace,

You provide love and peace.

You commanded us to love each other…

You have given us signs of hope in the midst of despair.

It’s nice that the WCC occasionally takes time from news releases to pen a prayer.  But in typical fashion, this particular “prayer” describes Korea simply as a “victim” of a “divided world.”  In its various sanitized historical recollections about the Koreas, the WCC is always too bashful to admit that communist North Korea attempted to militarily conquer South Korea.  That the continued division of Korea is owing entirely to the archaic Stalinist structures that strangle North Korea is simply too emotionally difficult for the WCC to acknowledge.    

But the WCC is not so shy about confronting South Korea about its ostensible intransigence.  “The ‘engagement policy’ with its emphasis on ‘reconciliation and cooperation, peace and co-prosperity’ initiated by the leadership of two successive South Korean governments contributed to the easing of tensions in the Korean Peninsula,” Kobia enthused in his letter to President Lee about Lee’s accommodationist predecessors.  “The policy and dynamics of inter-Korean cooperation developed by South Korea during the past decade have made unprecedented progress in inter-Korean relations and have helped to generate important confidence-building measures. However, the new South Korean government’s policy towards North Korea reflected in your inaugural speech of ‘Denuclearization, Opening and Vision 3000’ is cause for concern and disappointment as it negates the spirit of the joint declarations made by the two Koreas in the recent past.”

Remarkably, no WCC official has expressed similar “concern” and “disappointment” about nearly any policy of North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il.  Perhaps the WCC, in a gracious Christian spirit, simply does not want to hurt the feelings of the sensitive dictator?   If only the WCC were as equally solicitous of the thousands of Christians in North Korea who struggle in secret, lest they be imprisoned or murdered.   Even North Korea’s nuclear program is described by the WCC in abstract, impersonal terms that avoid any finger pointing.  Indeed, Kobia hailed North Korea for recently dismantling a nuclear cooling tower, showing its “clear commitment to dismantling its nuclear program in the near future.”  Why cannot South Korea respond with similar equanimity?  The WCC, when complaining about South Korea, always likes to cite its ecumenical partners in South Korea.    

“The WCC member constituencies in South Korea have already expressed their concerns on this recent policy development, which is being promoted by your administration,” Kobia warned President Lee.  “The World Council of Churches shares the concerns expressed by the South Korean churches about your government’s policies on North Korea, and we urge you to respond creatively to the positive gesture demonstrated by the North Korean government last week.”

By “South Korean churches,” the WCC refers to the left-leaning Korean Council of Churches, which reliably repeats the WCC’s political mantras. More outrageously, the WCC frequently boats of its partnership with the Korean Christian Federation (KCF), which is Kim Jong Il’s puppet church group in North Korea.  Although Kobia was not so audacious as to mention the KCF in his letter to President Lee, the KCF presumably agrees with the WCC’s deep “concern” about the new South Korean skepticism of North Korea.   And helpfully, Kobia did send the KCF a copy of his reprimand of President Lee, presumably just to assure the KCF that the WCC stands with the North Korean dictatorship in resisting any external pressures for human rights reforms.  

What do the Gospels say about those who support the persecutors against the persecuted?  Do not expect the WCC to quote that Scripture in any of its future “prayers” about the Koreas.


Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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