PANMUNJOM, South Korea

“We in the church are always praying for the unification of Korea,” said the Rev. Koon-yeol Kang, who pastors a church on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the 38th Parallel, dividing Korea.

Located within the DMZ is the Joint Security Area (JSA), used for diplomatic meetings between North and South Korea. The JSA is home to about 250 Christian soldiers, who worship at Kang’s church every week.

For the Rev. Sun Bai Kim, the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s associate for Korean Congregational Support, the call for unification rings true.

Kim was in Korea as part of a delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), visiting the Presbyterian Church of Korea as it celebrated its 100th anniversary and General Assembly.

On Sept. 20, Kim spoke at the JSA church.

The Korean War started on his ninth birthday, and when the war ended three years later, Kim was eye-witness to the fragile peace and separated families between the two countries.

The economies, cultures and politics of the two Koreas are very different, Kim said. South Korea’s economy is growing, as are Christian churches here, including more than 20,000 Korean missionaries serving in 173 countries. There are more Presbyterians in South Korea than in any other country, including the United States.

“Wherever you go, you can find Korean churches and missionaries working for people,” he said.

But North Korea remains poor and oppressed and is home to many human rights violations.

Preaching on Isaiah 40:1-5, Kim spoke of a “bold statement” of drama, mystery and hope. In that passage, Isaiah tells the persecuted Israelites that they will be blessed.

“This speech was expressed to a people who had experienced the loss of nearly all human dignity as captives,” Kim said. “For these people in despair, the prophet Isaiah expressed a message of hope and comfort.”

Like the Israelites, the Korean people have served their time of captivity — and that time is over. Koreans have faced captivity and division since 1945 and the end of World War II: 67 years. God liberated the Israelites after 70 years.

“Let us listen to the voice that cries out. We need to prepare the way for the Lord,” Kim said. “The uneven ground of the Korean Peninsula (will) become leveled with justice for all. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all people shall see it together.”