Karen Spicher shares life together with Peace Building Community in Namyangju, Korea. Karen’s roles include raising three daughters, homeschooling and serving on the admin team for Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI). She is a member of Grace and Peace Mennonite Church, Namyangju, South Korea.
For some background on tensions in the Korean Peninsula, see an article Karen and her husband Jae Young Lee wrote during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics: What might reconciliation in North and South Korea look like?
Tell us how you got involved in peacemaking work in Korea.
One of my deepest learning experiences in university was through a job with Summer Peacebuilding Institute, in the summer of 2001. I met peace-loving participants from many parts of the world, listened to their stories, and shared life together.
That summer, I realized those are the things I am made to do: meet people, listen to stories, and share life together. In five years of studying in Virginia, and the four years learning from immigrant communities in South Texas after that, I experienced joy and I grew. Each person I met shaped me into the person I am today.
In 2007, I came to Korea to teach English with Connexus Language Institute. I enjoyed the relationship aspect of teaching, and as I witnessed the peacebuilding work of Korea Anabaptist Center, I also wanted to join in. I switched to part-time teaching and part-time planning for a new peacebuilding institute, Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI). Supporting the co-creation of NARPI, along with many people from across the region, has brought me a lot of hope.
What should the church know about what is happening in the Korean Peninsula?
Right now is the beginning of a season of history-making change in Korea, Northeast Asia and the world. On April 27, we watched the Seoul-Pyongyang meeting in Panmunjeom on the south side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). It was a remarkable experience to witness the oppressive rules of division and war, being broken.
You have all seen the images of the leaders of the two Koreas, holding hands over the 38th parallel, standing together on the South side, stepping together into the North side and then back. These images will stay forever in my memory and in the memories of our children.
In addition to taking in the images of this historic meeting, I hope the global church will also read and affirm the outcomes of the Seoul-Pyongyang summit. A very simple summary of the agreements are as follows:
- The Koreas will continue to improve relations, increasing exchange and cooperation in many fields, and to seek self-reliant reunification.
- The Koreas will reduce military tension by stopping all hostilities, establishing a peace zone in the West Sea, and holding military talks.
- The Koreas will cooperate to build lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula by reducing military spending, seeking South-North-U.S. talks or South-North-U.S.-China talks to bring about a peace treaty and aiming for complete denuclearization.
This was the first summit in this new season of dialogue and peace. In the middle of May, there will be a Seoul-Washington meeting, to discuss the April 27 Seoul-Pyongyang summit. In May or early June, a Washington.-Pyongyang summit will take place. Also sometime in May, a Beijing-Seoul-Tokyo summit will be held in Tokyo.
As you listen to the news of these gatherings in the coming months, please remember that this is not simply a political matter but that hundreds and thousands of lives are at stake. It is clear that peace is possible and that God’s vision for humanity is peaceful coexistence, not destruction.
What should we pray for specifically?
Pray that the spirit of peace and cooperation that was present in the Seoul-Pyongyang summit will continue in the upcoming meetings and summits. Pray that these gatherings would work toward sustainable peace, both for the Korean peninsula and for Northeast Asia. Pray that the leaders will not give up if the dialogue process seems slow or doesn’t produce exactly what they’re hoping for.
Please pray too, for civil society efforts for peace, including NARPI. Recently the NARPI Steering Committee drafted a statement about the tensions in Korea and the upcoming NARPI Summer Training in Jeju Island, Korea, in August. Pray that many will join in the NARPI vision for a region of active non-violence, mutual cooperation, and lasting peace.
What else is needed from the church?
I encourage you to listen to voices from Koreans over the media reports you hear in the U.S. ReconciliAsian is one wonderful resource for the church. Of the English news options in Korea, I recommend Hankyoreh or Arirang.
I invite you to seek out ways to meet Korean people, listen to their stories, and to help bring healing in Korea and Northeast Asia, so that we may all share life together.
This post is part of MC USA’s Korean Peninsula: Learn, Pray, Join initiative.
With hope we pray for peace and clear minds for all leaders engaged in historic talks regarding the future of North and South Korea, and nuclear disarmament. We invite MC USA congregations to take part in the day of prayer for the Korean Peninsula on May 20 using MCC’s Prayer for Peace in North Korea:
Dear Lord, send your Spirit to establish peace between nations.
We bring before you the disunity of Northeast Asia,
it’s history of injustice and oppression,
the fear of the unknown,
and now threats of nuclear war.
May your church be a voice of reason,
reaching across divides to speak peace in a region
that has endured 70 years of hostility and division.
Strengthen the will of those who work for reconciliation and peace.
Renew your church
And give us the peace which the world cannot give, Amen.
Consider ways you can actively promote peace in the Korean Peninsula by:
• Participating in the MCC U.S. Washington Office’s call to urge Congress to publicly support diplomacy with North Korea and carry the message to President Trump that engagement and dialogue with North Korea is the only way to move toward peace on the Korean peninsula. Visit this action alert to send a message to Congress.
• Financially supporting the ongoing peacemaking efforts of MCC and Mission Network by donating here. Funds will be shared between the Korea Peacebuilding Institute, a partner of Mission Network, and MCC’s work in North Korea and South Korea.