12/19/2011, 00.00
KOREA

Korean bishop says Kim’s death opens a path to dialogue, carefully

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon and president of the Episcopal Commission for the care of migrants, tells AsiaNews, “a period of confusion begins in the peninsula. We must focus on dialogue for peace but remain alert. May Christmas push us to pray for an improvement in the situation.” South Korea’s Ambassador to the Holy See Thomas Han sees some hope.
Daejeon (AsiaNews) – The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il “opens the path to a period of great confusion. Inside the regime, there will a clash between the party and the army. The young age of the heir will not help a smooth transition. Now we must pray for peace in Korea and the world, and use the Christmas season to remain vigilant but with a hand extended to our brothers in the North,” said Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon and president of the Episcopal Commission for the care of migrants.

“There will be a lot of confusion in the northern part of the peninsula,” said the prelate, who is responsible for programmes that help northern refugees integrate. “The dictator’s son and heir designate is only 28-year-old and lacks the experience to lead the country in its relations with China, the United States and South Korea. I hope and pray that no one involved acts hastily. We need to focus on dialogue now that a certain window of opportunity has opened up.”

On this issue, the bishop talked about a dispute that has broken out in South Korea. “We received the news only eight hour ago, but South Korea’s opposition has already urged the government to send an official delegation to Kim Jong-il’s funeral. The government has taken a wait-and-see attitude. I think it should be done so that they understand that we mean peace and dialogue. We can wait for their answer, because at least we tried. Of course, it should not be done in a sterile way. We have tried so many times before and were mocked.”

For Mgr You, the problem “is 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. In such a situation, ordinary people will pay and many will continue to die of hunger. We must do our utmost to start sending humanitarian aid again and prevent more deaths from the situation. It is too soon to say what will happen on the Korean Peninsula, but we must pray and work so that peace wins.”

Meanwhile, in Rome South Korea’s ambassador to the Holy See, Thomas Hongsoon Han, has expressed his personal thoughts about Kim Jong-il’s death. “I hope,” he told AsiaNews, “that this death will give peace a chance. The South and the North are going through a critical moment from an economic point of view. We need a period of peace. I hope that this death will bring better possibilities than the past.”
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