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Sang Yang stands in front of the Imjin River that separates North and South Korea | Photo by Erik Tryggestad

For Korea, ‘God has a timetable’

Some Korean Christians dare to show optimism at prospect of summit between U.S., North Korea

Will it happen or not? When will it happen? And if it does happen, will anything change?

Christians on the Korean peninsula waver between oh-so-cautious optimism and outright cynicism as they ponder those questions in light of the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

A child skips near a family cemetery in Paju, South Korea, looking across the Demilitarized Zone toward the mountains of North Korea.

The summit is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. However, North Korean leaders, angry at joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, halted talks with the South and threatened to pull out of the summit entirely if the U.S. insisted on the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear program. On May 22, Trump hinted that the talks may be delayed.

Nonetheless, “I feel something is different this time, though the leadership in North Korea is unpredictable,” said Sang Yang, a minister for a Church of Christ in South Korea’s capital, Seoul, and director of the Bible Correspondence Center, a ministry-training program. “One thing I always do believe is that God is in control.”

Like many on the peninsula, Yang’s is a family divided. His parents fled from the North during the Korean War, a three-year conflict that claimed 2.5 million lives, though some historians estimate the number was much larger. Some members of his extended family stayed in the North

“I have my relatives right there,” Yang said, standing just south of the Imjin River and pointing across the Demilitarized Zone toward North Korea during an interview in 2013. “I don’t know whether they are still alive or not.”

An easing of tensions between North and South could allow long-estranged families to visit each other and perhaps open doors to the Gospel, Korean Christians say, pointing to recent signs of hope including the recent meeting between Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Both leaders said they would declare an official end to the Korean War, 65 years after it began. Kim also has visited China’s president, Xi Jinping.

Tommy Chia

Meanwhile, people in Singapore have responded to news that their island city-state will host the summit with a mix of encouragement and nonchalance.

“Actually, a lot of people are too busy been affected by the Korean peninsula affair,” said Tommy Chia, a member of the Moulmein Church of Christ in Singapore. “I personally would love to see a peace agreement signed so that the Koreans can work toward a coexisting future — or even be united as one.”

Americans with ties to Korea echoed Chia’s sentiments, including Caleb Holsey, who worships with the Brookside campus of the Park Plaza Church of Christ, in Tulsa, Okla.

“My wife and I lived in north Seoul some years ago, about 20 miles from the DMZ,” Holsey said. “What I heard from all South Koreans, not just Christian South Koreans, was that most seemed to view North Korean people as a lost brother, somewhat of a prodigal son type of story.

Caleb Holsey

“In the news we hear from top-level government versus top-level government, so the picture is one of North versus South in a negative way. Keep in mind, there are many family ties between people living on both sides that trace far back, reunions of which haven’t happened for many years.”

Standing at the DMZ, Yang said he has hope that those reunions will one day take place — hope based on a power greater than any worldly leader. “We know, and we believe, God has his timetable,” he said, “and I hope and I pray God will open their doors — hopefully in my lifetime — so that we can reach them, so that we can spread the Gospel to North Korea.”


Filed under: Donald Trump International Kim Jong-un Korea North Korea South Korea Top Stories

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