Samuel Kobia, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, continues to demonstrate that he is either extraordinarily dishonest, genuinely deluded, or has some ulterior motives (not all of which would necessarily be bad, by the way) in addressing the situation on the Korean peninsula. On Wednesday, he gave the opening presentation at an “International Consultation on Peace, Reconciliation, Reunification of the Korean Peninsula” in Hong Kong. It’s an amazing speech.
It’s too long to go through paragraph by paragraph, especially since what is so objectionable is by and large what’s not in it. Not a single mention of human rights violations in North Korea, nor of the persecution of Christians there. Not a single hint that the North started the Korean War, and thus bears a lot of the responsibility for the continued state of affairs on the peninsula. No suggestion that much of the suffering and starvation in the North over the last decade has been self-inflicted by a regime monomaniacally pursuing nuclear weapons (a quest which, at least in theory, the WCC opposes). No suggestion that reunification of North and South Korea might have some connection to the nature of the North’s dictatorship. Here’s an example of this thinking:
However, it has been an encouraging factor that a new thinking contrary to the earlier hard line policies of South Korean leaders emerged. The new generation of South Korean leaders have attempted to change or move away from the old perceptions and move beyond the Cold War era politics of rivalry. The most visible expression of such movement was evident during the regime of the late President Kim Dae Jung. The South Korean leaders came forward to address the issues by dealing with their northern neighbour within a post-Cold War framework based on nationalism and shared ethnic ties and cultural values. They upheld the aspirations of the majority of the Korean people to seek the realization of the long-held dream of Korean reunification. In other words, they conveyed the message that they wanted to move in the direction of a concept, “from confrontation to community”. A shift in hard line policies and willingness to move away from confrontation with North Korea should be the ultimate goal towards reconciling the bonds of community that were torn apart during the Korean War and in the following years of the Cold War. I am sure, the aspirations and willingness of the Korean people to move beyond the Cold War era will rewrite the history of the Korean peninsula.
There’s no suggestion here (nor anywhere else in the address) that North Korea’s “hard-line policies” have anything to do with the continuing conflict, or that there is any need for the North to change its political culture. Here’s Kobia’s explanation for why no progress toward reunification was made back in the bad old 1980s:
The Tozanso consultation organized by the CCIA of the WCC in 1984 was held in a most difficult time for Korean churches to discuss openly the issue of Korean reunification. When WCC’s active engagement in the Korean peace and reunification process began in the 1980s, South Korea was under a military dictatorship and was experiencing rampant human rights violations. Due to the Cold War, the Korean peninsula was in the grip of militarization and the arms race. There were deliberate and systematic efforts to create enemy images which demonized the other. Any discussion of reunification at that time was considered an offence to Korean society. The National Security Law was used to suppress people’s movement and their aspirations for justice, peace and reunification on the pretext of safeguarding national security. Some participants invited to Tozanso failed to turn up because of fear of the consequences they would have to face under the draconian National Security Law.
Once again, the blinders are truly incredible. The problem was that South Korea was under a military dictatorship! Not that the North was similarly shackled in its approach to the South, or that people might have feared for their lives if they’d advocated reunification on the basis of democratization in the entire peninsula.
All in all, this speech is one of the most astounding proofs of the degeneration of at least the leadership of the World Council of Churches. Whether Kobia’s successor will be any better is yet to be seen, but it’s hard to believe there’s anywhere to go but up.