On June 25, 1950, conflict broke out on the divided Korean Peninsula. North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel, an artificial line of demarcation chosen by the winning superpowers after World War II, invading South Korea.
The police action, the Korean Conflict, the Korean War expanded to include forces from South Korea, North Korea, the United States, and the People’s Republic of China. Fifteen other countries provided combat troops to the United Nations Command, created by UN Security Council Resolution 83, recommending that members of the United Nations aid South Korea. Several other countries provided humanitarian aid. The Soviet Union aided North Korea with advisers and material assistance.
The fighting ranged up and down the Korean Peninsula with neither side gaining an advantage. The number of killed and wounded among combatants and non-combatants is disputed. CNN suggests that:
The toll of the war included about 1.2 million deaths in South Korea, 1 million deaths in North Korea, 36,500 deaths for U.S. troops and 600,000 deaths for Chinese soldiers.
After more than three years, an armistice was signed on July 27, 2013 – sixty years ago. This armistice was a truce, a ceasefire. A treaty ending the war has never been signed. Military commanders from the People’s Republic of China and North Korea signed the armistice with the US-led United Nations Command signing on behalf of the international community. South Korea did not sign.
The truce has generally held, but many of the people living on the Korean Peninsula want a true peace. They view such a peace as the an important step toward the end of the periodic tensions and confrontations that arise. In this anniversary year, efforts to seek such a peace are increasing.
The ecumenical community in the United States has created a Korean Peace Petition to send to the Obama Administration. The petition, which you can download and sign, encourages the administration to move toward a path to peace and reconciliation
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church of Korea issued a Joint Statement on the Peace of the Korean Peninsula that called members and congregations to join in a Season of Prayer for peace in Korea. My friends Kurt Esslinger and Hyeyoung Lee serve as mission co-workers in South Korea. They have written a prayer for the Season of Peace that begins:
God of the universe, God of the nations,
The people of the Korean Peninsula are crying out,
They no longer wish to live in the shadow of war,
They no longer wish to have resources diverted from life toward death,
They no longer wish to live in fear of the next possible misjudgment in calculation and rhetoric,
They yearn for healing and truth,
You call us to be a people of light, of life, and of peace,
But we have stood silent as our country perpetuates the machinations of death, darkness, and war.
How long, O Lord, must the Korean people live in a state of war?
Check out the whole prayer. Use it. Use other prayers. Pray for the peace of Korean Peninsula.
See you along the Trail.