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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.