Editor’s note: The Rev. Kang Young-sup hosted a delegation from the PC(USA)  in Pyongyang in the spring of 2010. He was warm, engaging and a tireless advocate for the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. I liked and respected him. ― Jerry L. Van Marter

TOKYO ― North Korean Christian leader the Rev. Kang Young-sup, who worked for the reunification of North and South Korea, died on Jan. 21 at the age of 80, according to Chosen Tongshin Sa, a North Korean news agency.

Kang had served as chairperson of the Central Committee of the Korean Christian Federation (KCF), the state-sanctioned Protestant group in North Korea.

Kang “played an important role in nation building as well as in working for peace and reconciliation on the divided Korean peninsula,” wrote the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), in a letter to the Rev. Oh Kyung Woo, general secretary of the KCF.

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) noted Kang’s “devotion and sincere commitment to peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula through various exchanges and cooperation of Christians,” in a letter from general secretary the Rev. Kim Young Ju.

“The NCCK will do our best in our journey toward peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula as the great task of our nation through continuous cooperation in solidarity with the KCF,” Kim wrote.

“Kang led a North Korean delegation to many important ecumenical events,” said Jooseop Keum, director of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism of the WCC.

“He was formerly a judge and North Korean ambassador to Romania before his ordination. His father, the Rev. Kang Ryang Uk, also served the federation as moderator. He was also the chairperson of the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea,” Keum said.

“The Kang family is a famous Christian family in North Korea who protected Christians under the communist regime because they were very close to [former North Korean leader] Kim Il Sung as relatives,” he added.

There are currently about 13,000 Christians in North Korea, according to Keum.