Korean Bishops Seek A Peaceful Dialogue

by Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has opened a window of opportunity for renewed dialogue and possible reunification of the peninsula, said two South Korean bishops.

Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, said the leader’s death Dec. 17 “may be the beginning of a turning point for the path of the reunification of the Koreas.”

“We hope that the Lord gives the light and strength to the North Korean brothers so that there is a return for a policy focused on dialogue, peace and reconciliation,” he said in an interview Dec. 19 with Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency.

Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik of Daejeon, South Korea, told the Rome-based AsiaNews Dec. 19 that “we must focus on dialogue for peace but remain alert.”

He said he feared the leader’s death would prompt “a period of great confusion.”

“Inside the regime, there will (be) a clash between the party and the army. The young age of the heir will not help a smooth transition,” said Bishop You.

Kim’s youngest son, 27-year-old Kim Jong-un, was declared the country’s next leader.

Kim, who suffered a stroke in 2008, had ruled the reclusive communist state since 1994, following the death of his father, Kim Il-sung.

Bishop You said the new leader lacks the political experience needed to guide the country’s relations with the United States, South Korea and China.

He expressed concerns that the transition would not be smooth and that “a harsh conflict will break out now between the party, which is in the hands of the heir’s uncle, and the military that are answerable to Kim Jong-un.”

Too much political wrangling would mean the citizens of North Korea end up paying the price with continued poverty and deaths from hunger, he said.