North and South Korea Dialogue

Should there be any large scale emigration from North to South Korea or pressure for political reunification, as it stands now, historical issues that are likely to explode under conditions of “unification” with North Korea are not being dealt with in any adequate way. The Center’s goals in Korea are to help Korean leaders of the young generation to work out the steps they need to take to support social integration in the event of future reunification of the North and the South, and to focus them on the importance of historical conciliation to the future of their country.The issues between two countries that were once one are numerous and complex. Besides the very different ideologies each country has come to epitomize, differences which in and of themselves provide potential for acrimony, the Koreas’ position within the US-Soviet battleground further intensified and stratified these differences. The possibility of “reunification” brings up many painful memories of families torn in two and, in many cases, its members cast on opposing sides of bloody war.

.  Please be mindful that, to maintain the usefulness of such an exercise, it should not be distributed widely without the ICfC’s consent, and that the exercise is protected by copyright laws.Historical issues between North and South Korea are proving to be volatile and are being used to exploit dissention. Narratives that are counterproductive to peace and conciliation between the North and the South, to whatever degree they may be true or not, have a hold on the thinking of people. They influence what happens with the reunification of families from North and South and often add acrimony to family memories and resentments that have been harbored for so many years making the task of “reunification” all the more difficult.

Rather than undertake to mediate any particular conflicts, the ICfC is trying to address the issues of history in Korea through consultation, education, and advocacy for “history without hate.” We provide consultation to the best organizations who work on the front lines with these issues, particularly working through religious networks such as the Buddhist and Christian clergy and social workers who receive refugees from North Korea. We believe that these people need support and training in not only the development and economic issues of dealing with refugees, but also the issues of memory. The South Korean Government has turned to raising the issue of Korean collaboration with the Japanese in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40s, and holding families responsible two and three generations later. As if this were not sufficiently problematic, this policy is being implemented in a completely partisan way. Moreover, historical issues that are likely to explode under conditions of “unification” with North Korea are not being dealt with in any adequate way, such that they will linger and interfere eventually with integration of this divided nation.

The Center’s goals in Korea are to help Korean leaders of the young generation to work out the steps they need to take to support social integration in the event of future reunification of the North and the South, and to focus them on the importance of historical conciliation to the future of their country. In Ho Lee, former South Korean Ambassador to Russia, is assisting with our consultations and project development in the area.  ICfC Board members Don Shriver and Peggy Shriver have also provided assistance in project development and in local contacts and consultation about the current situation in South Korea.  In the United States where the ICfC is based, our Fellows have researched, drafted and tested a role play mediation simulation exercise that could be used to train Korean clergy members and social workers in dealing with the above issues in the field.  We have successfully tested the role play with South Korean graduate seminary students at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and benefited from consulting with them to revise it for maximium potential effectiveness in the field.  For a review copy of the Korea role play exercise, click here

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