Korean General Assembly Choose 'The Least of These' As Their Theme


South Korea is a country with a past steeped in suffering. It's a past in which Scotland has been involved.The catastrophic Korean War, which was essential a civil war brought about by external forces (the confrontation between Communism and Capitalism) left the country a divided wasteland. This was the first intervention of a United Nations force, involving US, UK, Australia, in total twenty nations contributed to the allies. Literally, over a million people lost their lives in the conflict including solders from Scotland, China, Korea and a large number of Chinese. Over 1000 soldiers from the British Army died in the three year conflict from 1950-53. The sad thing about the last comment is that, for many years their names and their sacrifice have largely been forgotten. It would be good if my visit to Korea some 60 years later, could at least be a reminder to those who follow my blog that the success story we see here in Korea was a costly one. Indeed for many it is still costly as families remain divided across artificial borderlines. This nation is divided into North Korea and South Korea along the 38th parallel lines, with a heavily guarded demilitarised zone which ranges from 2.5 km - 4km wide, sharing borders with China and Russia for about 20km south of Vladivastok. The war is not forgotten by the Korean, Jackie Bird in a documentary on the BBC told the very moving story of Scottish Veterans returning to Korea to remember their fallen comrades. In a very powerful and at times emotional description, she relates how Koreans stopped in the railway station in Seoul to respect these returning forgotten heroes. She recalls how cafe owners offered free coffee and pastries to the passing Scots. All this is in contrast to the North of the country where the people are totally shut off from the free world. The regime is careful to try and keep Western influence away from its population. It is therefore very difficult for South Koreans to cross over the border to maintain contact with their families. Many indeed have never met their relatives for nearly 60 years, since the border was erected. The North , known officially as the Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea, has a population of around 24 million, with over a million people in its army. The UK has a population around 60 million and we will reduce our army to 80,000 in the very near future. Perhaps this alone is an interesting commentary on the differences between our two societies. The North is run by a strange brand of localised Communism, which in reality is a cult inviting the nation to worship their great leader. The South has been developed mainly by American money into a prosperous Western style economy,where an increasing number of its 49 million population (over 25%?) now adhere to Christianity. A large number are Presbyterians. It's Thursday morning -I've been up since 6.00am - had breakfast and now on an express train to Kyungsan City, where I will be speaking to over 100 students at the Youngnam Seminary. The topic I've chosen to speak about is " Mission and Technology" I think it's a very relevant topic for young Korean Christians to consider and reflect upon. Korea is among the most technologically advanced nations in the world. I believe there is a growing need for theologians to continue to engage with technology, especially those studying missiology. It would be interesting for those of us who live in the West to hear how technology is influencing Asian theology. Meanwhile I'm thinking on the families in the UK who lost a loved one in this country and I hope that I might in some way be able to highlight this in my visit. Among the many opportunities to meet and greet people, I'm also hoping to hear more about the Korean interest in renewable energy and understand how this fits in with the work being arrived out in Scotland. Finally I've been greatly impressed by the theme ' The least of these' chosen by the POK as their theme for this year's General Assembly. I think this offers us all a great deal to reflect upon.
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