Friday, January 23, 2015

Dreaming of Reunification of the Country

From the time of the division of Korea, North Koreans have fled to the South. Those who leave the North after entering China go to a third country because China refuses to grant refugee status to the defectors, and considers them illegal. If caught in China they are repatriated back to North Korea to face serious consequences. 

The Inchon Diocese's Committee for the Reconciliation of the Nation works to improve the relations between the two countries. On Jan. 15-16, 18 young people of the two sectors of the country met in a School for Unity Program. They began with some awkwardness  but quickly developed into a closeness of friendship.

There has been in the diocese programs where those who were refugees from the North were invited to live with Catholic families to accustom themselves to the culture and the South Korean way of doing things, but this was the first time that young people of the North and South spent time in a formal way to get to know each other, and dream of a united Korea.

Defectors in South Korea are usually called refugees but in recent years we have been using the words "people of a new land",  less disagreeable to the North than the word they used in the past: "people who fled the North."  There is also the word with a stronger meaning: "residents who renounced North Korea."  During this program we heard "people of a new land."   

After the start of the program on the mainland with a welcoming and a Mass they came to the Gyodong Peace Island, and to the mission station. Kim Young-Ai (Theresa) one of the committee members  and a parishioner of the  mission station gave a talk on Gyodong as the Peace Island and how many of  the citizens still consider themselves as people from the North who now live on the island, but dream of some day returning to their place of birth. 

There are still many persons living here in the South who at the big holidays come to Gyodong with nostalgia for their homeland. They may be those who left the North during the Korean War or family members of those who left. The distance to the nearest point in North Korea is about 2.5 kilometers. On a clear day you can see the North Koreans working in their fields.

The group was taken on a sight seeing tour of the island by Theresa and they spent some time in the area overlooking the North. After the  trip they returned to the mainland and spent time together in discussion and expressing their views on the days activities. They want to continue this school for unity in the future.

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