Interview with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea

2013. május 10., péntek

Recently a delegation from the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea visited the RCH. The following interview is with Rev. Dr. Min Heui Cheon, the Executive Secretary of the Ecumenical Relations Department for the PROK.

What is the reason for your visit to Hungary?

We have a mission coworker in Hungary – a professor who finishes his term and we are sending a new one here. Also, we are partners with the Hungarian Reformed Church. So first of all, I as ecumenical director, executive secretary in the ecumenical department, I want to visit you and have more understanding and see the area – for explaining to our new mission coworker your situation and what kind of things he can expect. I think as my role, I wanted to have more understanding about your church first and I need to provide information for our mission coworker.

Why is it important to have this partnership between the Reformed Church in Hungary and the PROK?

When we have a partnership, we feel that we are not alone. So, [the RCH is] supporting – they are praying for us and they are supporting our peace treaty issue in the Korean peninsula and also eco-movement issue in the Korean peninsula. So, that support means a lot to us, especially nowadays with the political situation in Korea. We want to have a peace movement with North Korea and also, because they are suffering, we want to send food to them, but the leadership is changing, so it is really hard to do it. But, we try hard to be a connection between North and South Korea.

Partnership means supporting each other's issue and upbringing the next generation. We need a partnership; then young people will not feel "we are the only Christians." There are Christians far more open to the society and work toward reformation. So, our PROK young people, we will send to Starpoint and they will feel "Oh, we are not alone." The Hungarian Reformed church is active in the society too and they want reform. Like in Roma ministry. Our PROK denomination makes an effort for migrant workers. No one paid attention to that issue before. It was tough to approach to the government and people had a prejudice of the migrant workers, but PROK was the only who was upfront in those issues; in providing centers and places to come and feed them. And the Hungarian Reformed church is interested in those ministries too. We have a similar view of ecumenical work, so our partnership is very important. I think that without going, and without seeing and without feeling, it's harder to deepen our partnership, so that's my main purpose to visit.

(Speaking about tensions between North and South Korea) What are some of the ways that your church has been affected and some of the steps you're taking to deal with that?

When we had a dictatorship in our country, they did not like us at all. Our pastors were arrested and we demonstrated in the street and of course people were arrested... [Now] they want to build a huge army base, the navy base, but we know that will affect the Korean peninsula peace issue, and at the same time though, a northeast Asia peace issue. So, it's complicated. Other denominations don't want to get involved, but it's destroying the nature and also it's breaking the peace in northeast Asia. So, the PROK jumped into those issues. But, we have a pressure from government, and when we have a connection with the North Korean Christian Federation and we want to send food or flour; actually there are some steps to the government, a lot of negotiation is happening, but still it's is hard to send the food. The PROK is based on social and justice work. The government doesn't like it, but still they need a critical voice.

So you do have partners in North Korea. Is it very, very difficult to communicate with them?

Nowadays more, because of the new leadership and they have more control of the country and the militarism also. So, it is not that easy to contact. Before it was much easier to contact them and meet with them to make a project and to build a factory or build a daycare center, and a flour or noodle factory, like that, but now it is really hard. This year is the 60th year of the amnesty treaty, so we want to finish it, we want to have a peace treaty for our two countries, but the powerful countries who are around us, they don't like it. Even though that situation, our general secretary will attend a peace consultation in the United States and he will distribute papers, magazines and pamphlets and will share his opinion and our PROK opinion about the peace treaty and we will ask their support.

I can hear very similar connections between the Reformed Church in Hungary and your church in Korea. What are some of the similarities that you see?

I think, the Hungarian Reformed Church tried to embrace the isolated people and also tried to reach out to those communities who others do not reach their hands. Part of this is the Roma ministry and I also could feel that you try to encourage young people and you try to be very sensitive about the next generation's issue and young people's issue and try to listen and try to respond. Political issues too. You want to be independent from the political influence; also very ecumenical. You try to make connections with other denominations and working together with other regions. And also you try to be a good connection with other countries; the other denominations, Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox. I can feel that you are open-minded to differences, like us. We have a religious dialogue with other religions and also, we meet other religions and work together. With other denominations, we work together and we share our opinions and we try to make dialogue with other denominations too.


Amy Lester

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Our church through American eyes

We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.