Monday, April 16, 2007

DMZ Panmunjeom

Our last day in Korea was spent at Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea was deeply moving.

Our gracious hosts, Rev. and Mrs. Jong Soo Kim, spent the day with us and showed us the many sites along the border. Near the Bridge of No Return I noticed a photograph of an old man weeping for his northern homeland. It gave me a sense of the suffering of displacement and longing for reunification. Most interesting was decorated gate across Freedom Bride, and how close one can get to the border. I asked our hosts, “If I crossed here, would I be shot?”

“Yes,” Rev. Kim told me.

“And if a North Korean tried to cross here, would he be shot?”

Again, the answer was “Yes.”

The Joint Security Area conference room is the only place where North Koreans and South Koreans can come and make peace.

Our final stop along the way was the Odusan Unification Observatory at the northern most end of the western battle line dividing North and South Korea at the Im-jin River. There we enjoyed an exhibit of various products from the North and saw a multimedia presentation anticipating reunification. From the observation deck we looked across the river and saw the “promotional town” in North Korea constructed, we were told, to give the South Koreans the impression that life in the North is good and prosperous. The houses looked nice, the farm land rich, but there were only a few people walking around or living in the houses. As everyone now knows, North Korea is desperately poor and in need of basic resources.

I was deeply touched when Rev. Kim asked me to pray for those in North Korea. Gazing across the river, it was my privilege to pray for the health and well-being of our brothers and sisters in North Korea, and join Rev. and Mrs. Kim’s heart-felt desire to see the border open and a reunification of two peoples divided for over 50 years. May it soon be so. Amen.