Yoon Sung-Bum, Korean Religious Culture and Korean Theology (Seoul: Kamsin Publications,

Yoon Sung-Bum, Korean Confucianism and Korean Theology (Seoul: Kamsin Publications, 1998),

For example, Heup Young Kim, Christ and Tao (Hong Kong: Christian Conference of Asia,

Chung Hyun Kyung, 'Come, Holy Spirit — Renew the Whole Creation' in Michael Kinnamon (ed.), Signs of the Spirit: Official Report of the Seventh Assembly of the WCC, Canberra (Geneva: WCC, 1991), pp. 37-47.

approaches are usually rejected by mainline church leaders. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of the Korean churches are conservative evangelical churches, emphasizing revival, personal experience, eschato-logical hope, exclusive truth in Christ and the numerical growth of the church. Since there is a strong connection between theology and the church in the Korean context, most theologians are working in a seminary setting. On the one hand, it is a strength of Korean theology that it always tries to be relevant to the church, but on the other hand, creative theological exploration is limited by this constraint.


The conflict between the two Koreas is certainly the most pertinent and dominant concern for Koreans and has affected the lives of Koreans ever since the division of Korea, which began straight after the Japanese occupation was ended in 1945 by US and Russian forces. Though the desire for reunification has been the most important agenda item for political leaders, the ways to achieve the goal have differed widely, as the two Koreas were at the forefront of the Cold War ideological conflict. In this context, the churches in South Korea have gone through various stages in attempting to deal with the issue and often made a significant impact by formulating theological thinking as well as by participating in peace and reconciliation movements. Even before the Korean War, Korean Christians held a negative attitude toward the communist ideology because of its anti-religious stance, and this was confirmed by the persecution of churches by the government in the North and even greater suffering during the War. As a result, during and after the War, Christians tended to be at the forefront of anti-communist movements, to be against the ceasefire, and to regard communists as evil.

This rigid and hostile attitude toward the North was soon countered by a more sympathetic acceptance of the people of the North as same-blood relations. This coincided with the rise of the minjung theology movement, increasing the awareness of Christians' role in peace and reconciliation, and with the sustaining support of the World Council of Churches for peace and reconciliation. An initiative was taken by a group of overseas Korean Christians who met North Korean Christian delegates in the early 1980s, and this created fresh new beginnings. However, the declarations after the meetings were heavily critical of the South Korean and US governments and supportive of the North, and therefore they were rejected by the South Korean media and the general public, and did not really make any impact.

In 1988 the KNCC issued the 'Declaration of the Korea National Council of the Churches toward the unification and peace of the Korean people', which made a significant impact both within the church and on the whole nation.32 The KNCC declaration was welcomed by many Christians but also generated a heated discussion among them. However it did raise the issue of peace and reconciliation within the churches, which motivated conservative Christians to participate in the debate. The declaration started with the affirmation that Christ came to earth as the servant of peace and proclaimed the kingdom of God, which represented peace, reconciliation and liberation. It claimed that, accordingly, the Korean church was trying to be with people who were suffering. In the main thesis, the declaration acknowledged and confessed the sins of mutual hatred, of justifying the division of Korea, and of accepting each ideology as absolute, which was contrary to God's absolute authority. The declaration, while affirming the three principles expressed in the Joint Declaration (1972), added the priority of humanitarian practice and the participation of the minjung, who were the victims of a divided Korea, in the process of unification discussions. The document made practical suggestions to both governments, including: the change of the existing 'agreement for ceasefire' to 'agreement of peace' and, after a peace treaty was signed and the guarantee of the peace and security of the peninsula by the international community, the withdrawal of the US army and the dismantling of the UN head office. The Declaration then proclaimed the year 1995 as a jubilee year for peace and unification when Koreans could celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation from Japan. It set down practical steps toward the jubilee year including: church renewal, the church becoming a faith community for peace and reconciliation, and working together with all the churches, employing all the necessary means toward peace and reconciliation.

The declaration was welcomed by many South Korean churches and also by the Council of Chosun Christian Church in the North, but provoked severe criticism from the conservative sections of the Korean church. However, the Declaration brought the issue of reunification on to the main agenda of Korean Christians and challenged many conservative sections of the church to rethink their traditional approaches toward the North, moving from evangelism or relief to partnership for the common

3 Rhie and Cho (eds.), Creeds and Confessions of Korean Church, pp. 396—409.

goal of peace and reconciliation. Furthermore, the Declaration has expressed the vital concerns not only of Christians but also of the whole nation on the issue, and set the future direction of the Korean church. In spite of its limitations and shortcomings, the Declaration was a most significant landmark in the Korean Christian attempt to bring peace and reconciliation. It seems the gap between the conservative and liberal approaches toward reunification has been as deep as that between North and South Korea. However, the changing policy of the South Korean government since the early 1990s and also the increasing voices from younger generations mean that the church leadership is no longer saddled with the old pattern of the conservative and liberal dichotomy, but has to work together regardless of denominational and theological differences.33 Several theological themes need to be explored more deeply for understanding the church's involvement in peace and reconciliation.34 First, the implications of the jubilee principle in the present context of a divided Korea. The biblical jubilee principle has several dimensions: sabbatical, restoration of ownership, and liberation of slaves. When the KNCC declared 1995 as the year of jubilee, it focused on the third aspect of liberation and also more on the proclamation than the actualization of unification in any particular year. Though many sincerely expected and wished that it could be achieved, the important point was that the jubilee was proclaimed. It was the proclamation of the liberation of the Korean people from the bondage of ideological hegemony and from political systems which hinder the formation of a common community. This theme is also related to the remembering of God's grace in spite of the present situation, so that Christians are called to hold faith in confidence.

Restoration of community identity by employing the concepts of koinonia and oikoumene is another important theme. The separation of the people in the North and South for over sixty years in two very different socio-economic and political systems means that there are very few shared identities. What could be the contribution of theology in this context? Perhaps, as Ahn Byeung-Mu insists, the early church in Acts was primarily a food community, which shared the basic needs of humanity with others, rather than a worshipping community. The restoration of

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