Korean Catholics marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War — a war which never technically ended — Thursday with Masses offered for reconciliation on the divided Korean peninsula.
“Prayer is the most powerful weapon of the Church struggling for peace,” Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul, said June 25.
“By creating a culture of forgiveness, justice will become more human, and peace will be more permanent,” the cardinal said in Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral.
Nearly three million Korean people died in the Korean War, in which the peninsula lost 10% its overall population from 1950 to 1953. During the conflict, the United States suffered 33,686 deaths in battle, as well as 2,830 non-battle deaths. The Korean peninsula is technically still at war, 66 years after the armistice signed in July of 1953.
Catholics in South Korea prayed a novena leading up to the June 25 anniversary, which has been marked by the local Church for decades as an annual “Day of Prayer for the Reconciliation and Unity of the Korean People.”
According to Archbishop Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju, Korean Catholics have observed June 25 as a day of prayer for the Korean peninsula since 1965.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, parishes across South Korea were encouraged to offer Masses on the anniversary with added safety restrictions rather than having large crowds gather at cathedrals.
Since the division of the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel, the North and South have significantly diverged economically and culturally.
Twenty-five million people live in North Korea, the country with one of the world’s worst human rights records. A United Nations investigation in 2014 produced a 372-page report that documented crimes against humanity, including execution, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, forced abortions, and knowingly causing prolonged starvation.
South Korea, in contrast, has experienced significant economic growth since the Korean War. Its rapid development after the war has become known as the “miracle on the Han River,” in which the economy grew by an annual rate of nearly 9% for three decades.
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