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Swords into Plowshares is the blog of the Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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August 4, 2014

Joint Prayer for Peace and Reunification

Kurt Esslinger

In a few weeks the entire peninsula of Korea will honor the memory of Liberation Day from Japanese Colonialism on August 15th, 1945. This will be a celebration full of mixed feelings as this day also marks the moment when two foreign powers, the Soviet Union and the United States made the decision without Korean authority to divide the peninsula into two zones. A line that generally follows the 38th Parallel became the line of division. Upon the Korean War, it also became an impassable wall separating families and independence partners who happened to be on the wrong side.

My new partner organization, the National Council of Churches of Korea is calling upon churches around the world to join them in praying for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. They have joined together with the Korean Christian Federation that represents Christians in North Korea to write a Joint Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Hyeyoung and I have also helped them translate a worship liturgy into English so that you all may use it or parts of it. On the Sunday before August 15th, which will be August 10th, churches in North and South Korea will use this worship liturgy and prayer this prayer together so that the responsible governments including the USA, Russia, China, South, and North Korea will dispense with hostile activities and seek peaceful reunification of the peninsula.

As Christians together we believe that our connection and power in Christ transcends the limited and imperfect means of nation states and their foreign policy decisions. Together in prayer we will find a way where there is no way as the Spirit guides us. Please join in prayer with us on August 10th, 2014.

I have attached the worship liturgy and the prayer in case you want to use it in your congregation’s worship or if you simply want to share it through whatever media your community prefers.

Joint North/South Prayer 2014

Joint North/South Worship Liturgy 2014

Reprinted with permission from Hyeyoung and Kurt's Korean Adventure. Hyeyoung Lee and Kurt Esslinger serve the Young Adult Volunteer site coordinators in Daejeon, Korea. Kurt also serves with  the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) in the Department of Reconciliation and Reunification (RRD).

Categories: North Korea, Peace, Prayer, South Korea, YAV

Tags: daejon, korean peninsula, national council of churches in korea, reconciliation, reunification


  1. I encourage you to explore more of this history if you are so inclined. A good place to start is Bruce Cummings' book The Korean War (2010). But if you want more specifics about USMG and US State Dept. policies, statements, and actions in 1945, the look for his earlier book, The Origins of the Korean War (1974).

    by Kurt Esslinger

    August 12, 2014

  2. Hello Chuck. Thanks for your interest and for joining in the discussion. Apologies in advance for the lengthy response. Since living in Korea, I've been reading up on the history of events from Japanese Occupation pre-WWII and into 1945 and up to the Korean War. I beg to differ with your assessment. I recognize we generally do not hear the whole truth of what happened that year of 1945 in the US version of the Korean story, so I understand why my statement might sound to you like a "factual error." I believe there is a great need for awareness raising around this point. In the beginning of July 1945, when presented with the issue of who will remove Japanese forces from the Korean peninsula, the US State Dept agreed to let USSR do all the heavy lifting as they were already on their way there finishing off Japanese forces in Russia and Manchuria. In August, they changed their policy and sent orders to McArthur to have a force occupy at least the southern portion as fast as possible. The US and USSR then divided the peninsula into two zones where they would each handle governance. The idea of two zones was completely foreign to Korea before that time. Whether that was a "de facto political boundary" matters very little in terms of Korea being divided into two zones. When the US and USSR put up road blocks along that boundary within a month or two of the August 1945 occupation, division became a reality even if it wasn't yet a division of official governments. The authorities that the US appointed in US Military Government in the south also refused to work alongside recognized authorities in the north immediately. Thus, even without an official political division, there was already a practical political division in August 1945. Even the heavily South biased version of events you hear on tours of the DMZ in South Korea recognize that Korea was effectively divided in 1945 by the decision of the US and USSR. Actually, there was an existing authority when the US occupied the South in 1945. The Korean People's Republic was formed before US arrival. They had their foundational meeting on September 6th, 1945. The US arrived at Incheon on September 8th. That the US military gov't refused to acknowledge the KPR as an authority is very different from believing, "there was actually no 'Korean authority.'" This is especially significant since the USSR did recognize them as a Korean authority immediately. Also, the semantic difference between "de facto" and "de jure" holds little significance for the lives of Koreans here, especially those separated from their families that happened to be on the wrong side of the line in 1953. When they have been waiting more than 60 years for word as to whether their sister or brother is alive on the other respective side, division is a harsh reality no matter what language we use.

    by Kurt Esslinger

    August 12, 2014

  3. I believe the author makes a factual error in describing the division of North and South Korea. The 38th parallel was not intended - at least by the United States - to be a political boundary. It was an expedient for the Soviets to accept the surrender of the Japanese and occupy the peninsula north of the line, while the Americans accepted it to the south. It became a de facto political boundary after both Kim Il Sung's Soviet client state and Syngman Rhee's government in the south both claimed legitimacy over the whole of the Korean peninsula. The current boundary is still a de facto, not de jure political boundary, as it is officially a truce line agreed to in 1953, three years after North Korea invaded the south. If you don't count the Japanese empire, there was actually no "Korean authority" when the 38th parallel was agreed to by the US and USSR.

    by Chuck Creamer

    August 11, 2014

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