Korean churches see major goal for 2015 is realizing first steps of a peace treaty

(Photo: REUTERS / Lee Jae-Won)North Korean defectors living in Seoul sing a hymn in chorus during a divine service held to pray for peace and reunification of the divided Korean Peninsula at a church in Seoul April 7, 2013. North Korea, angry about new U.N. sanctions imposed for its third nuclear weapon test in February, has made increasingly strident warnings of an imminent war with South Korea and the United States.

A major goal of National Council of Churches in Korea is that 2015 will achieve the first step of establishing a peace treaty involving the four main parties in the conflict.

The general secretary of the South Korean-based grouping of churches Kim Young Ju said the first part of this should involve discussion by North and South Korea, the United States and China.

In his New Year message Kim said the churches would like to see "a lively exchange of a relationship between government, church, and civil society in both North and South Korea."

He hopes 2015 will see a substantial move forward in the questions around the relationship between North and South Korea.

Kim noted, "2015 is an important year – marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from Japanese occupation."

The NCCK is afiliaited with the Geneva-based World Council of Churches which in 2013 held the once-every-seven-yerars meeting of its highest governing body, its assembly, in Busan, South Korea.

Japan occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945 which marked the end of World War 11, but also the division of Korea and later the Korean civil war.

The Korean War was fought between North and South Korea, in which a United Nations force led by the United States of America fought for the South, and China fought for the North, also assisted by the Soviet Union.

The war stemmed from the division of Korea at the end of World War II and from the global tensions of the Cold War that developed immediately afterwards.

No peace treaty was ever signed when fighting stopped. The cessation of hostilities was an armistice signed on July 27, 1953.

Kim said, "It [2015] is also the 130th year since the coming of Christian missionaries from America, the Methodist Henry Appenzeller and the Presbyterian Horace Underwood."

"We want to celebrate these special milestones in our life - always aware that total liberation will not be achieved until reunification."

He cited a number of reasons why Korea has not been able to approach or achieve reunification.

"There are the conflicts between the superpowers which surround Korea, like the U.S. and China, and our self-reliance has been blocked by their interference since 1945."

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