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A former prime minister of South Korea joined Harvard scholars and the “Baptist Pope” this weekend in a series of events promoting peace and close ties between South Korea and the United States.
The events come as tensions rise on the Korean peninsula. Last week, North Korea denounced U.S. contingency plans to boost its military presence in the Pacific in the case of war with Iraq, saying that U.S. military aggression toward its nuclear facilities would bring about “total war.”
On Friday and Saturday, professors from the Divinity School led a “Korean-American Appeal for Peace,” that featured a panel discussion, a luncheon with former South Korean Prime Minister Dr. Young Duek Lee and a service by the Reverend Dr. Billy Kim, president of the Baptist World Alliance.
Kim also gave the Sunday sermon at Memorial Church, the first Korean to do so.
According to Professor of Religion David Little, who moderated the Friday panel, its goal was to bring about dialog.
“[The] basic purpose is to explore ways in which Harvard Divinity School could connect to individuals in South Korea who are concerned about the crisis,” Little said.
Another member of the panel, Randall C. Forsberg of the Cambridge-based Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, said the discussion was a timely one.
“There has been way too little attention given to what’s been going on in the Korean peninsula,” Forsberg said, citing both the dispute with the U.S., but also “real progress toward reconciliation and openness between North and South Korea.”
At Saturday’s luncheon former Prime Minister Lee attacked what he described as North Korean aggression. In written remarks he circulated in lieu of a speech, Lee called for a strengthened South Korean-American coalition and, invoking the religious themes of the weekend, asked those in attendance to pray for North Korea.
North Korea, he wrote, is “one of the few nations in the world with the dishonor of being a supporter of terrorism as well as a rogue state.”
Largely supporting current Bush administration policy, Lee said that “use of clear-cut and strong measures will work better with North Korea as President Bush is doing now.”
The busy weekend concluded yesterday morning with an appearance at Memorial Church by Kim, who is senior pastor of the 15,000 member Suwon Central Baptist Church in Seoul.
Kim began his lively and emphatic sermon, entitled “A Workman Need Not Be Ashamed,” by expressing fervent thanks to the U.S. for its significant role in assisting South Korea over the course of the last half-century.
But while Kim was politically supportive, he blasted societal values, citing a lack of faith and abundance of immorality in the U.S. today.
He began his sermon by introducing a choir from a South Korean elementary school, who sang “God Bless America.”
Michelle Metallidis ’06 called Kim’s oration powerful.
“I thought it was interesting that there was a South Korean pastor more pro-American than a lot of Americans are today,” said Metallidis.
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