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Prayer arises alongside North and South Korea tensions

 

Sherri Brown

A child participates in worship at a GBC Korean congregation outside of LaGrange this past summer. Koreans across the state are praying not only that recent acts of aggression form North Korea will not lead to further bloodshed, but for persecuted Christians in that country and a reunification of North and South Korea, now separated for nearly six decades.

DULUTH — Recent acts of aggression between North and South Korea have Georgia Baptists with ties to those countries praying for a peaceful resolution.

Born into a Buddhist family in South Korea, Pastor John Lim of SeKwang Baptist Church in Doraville left his homeland in 1980. Decades of separation between people in the North and South have not diminished a hope for coming back together, he said.

“The country has been divided since the Korean Conflict of 1953, with citizens of South and North Korea not being allowed to be in contact with each other,” he stated. “The recent aggression and others in the past have angered families of the victims. It saddens the Korean people as they want peaceful reunification.”

On Nov. 23 North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island, which has the unfortunate distinction of being in a hotly-contested border area between the two counties. Two civilians were killed in the attack with many wounded. It’s the same maritime area where in March a South Korean naval vessel was sunk, reportedly by a North Korea torpedo though that country has denied involvement.

The November event set off a mass exodus of the island, with about 98 percent of the more than 1,400 residents having fled just days after the shelling. North Korea threatened retaliation if South Korea held live-fire drills on the island Dec. 20, but backed off that threat after the latter did just that in a show of military strength.

Georgia Baptist Convention Intercultural Church Planting State Missionary Jerry Baker agreed with others that North Korea’s November attack could mirror reasons for previous provocations.

“Incidents like this are often due to internal problems in North Korea such as financial, flooding or lack of food at harvest,” he said. “Incursions – usually an attack across the border, shelling of a ship, or in this instance an island – is used to focus attention outside the country.”

A Dec. 21 article in The New York Times quoted Seoul political analysts as saying the attacks could be a way for the North to draw the United States and South Korea into talks and possibly concessions. Despite its bravado of independence North Korea is often desperate to obtain food aid from the South, particularly in times such as now with the brutal Korean winter at hand. A 1999 famine is believed to have claimed as many as a million lives, though the secretive nature of North Korea’s government prevents any concrete record.

A Dec. 21 report in The London Telegraph provided striking video of growing unrest among the North Korean people, now speaking out in ways never before seen in the country’s dark history. It adds up for plenty to pray over, said Lim, who has no family in either the North or South but church members that do.

“Georgia Baptists can pray for the Christian leaders of the South Korean churches and North Korean leadership, that they will give up planning for another conflict. Pray for the persecuted underground churches in North Korea and those Christians who face public execution for their families.”