For more than four years Jesuit KIM Youn-su has focused his research on the enigma that is the Catholic Church in North Korea. Since completing his PhD, KIM has spent much of his time giving lectures or holding workshops in which he seeks to correct the stereotypical notions that his fellow South Korean citizens hold of their northern neighbours. His presentations tend to revolve around the story of a Catholic Church resurgent in North Korea, one steeped in a complicated narrative that has been animated by the few lay people who have done similar work since the late 80’s. But for all the nuance and backstory, KIM’s work is essentially that of reconciliation.
The reinvigorated work of reconciliation has been a core tenet in the Society of Jesus since the 35th General Congregation. A profoundly evangelical ministry, reconciliation, together with justice, lies at the heart of Jesuit works ranging from the social sector, to spirituality and education. To achieve the balance of justice, it is often necessary for parties to agree to engage in reconciliation in order to break historical and cultural deadlocks that otherwise poison any movement into the future.
While there is no shortage of examples in which the exercise of reconciliation is required, Korea is one of the more pressing. Since the mid-20th century, North and South Korea have been at war. While the fighting ended with an armistice in July 1953, the two countries have never signed a peace treaty. Since the armistice, an uneasy “frozen conflict” has led to occasional armed conflicts, more than a few instances of international saber rattling, and a constant stream of invective-filled headlines.