Why US Christians Must Wrestle with a Korea Divided in Two

70 years after the country was split in half, Americans have a responsibility to assist in ending this unresolved separation.

In 1992, the American evangelist Billy Graham flew to Pyongyang to meet face to face with Kim Il Sung, the founding leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Mounting tensions between the United States and North Korea did not prevent Graham from preaching in two of the city’s official churches, meeting with church leaders and seminarians from around the country, and presenting Kim one of his books.

Two years later, Graham returned against the wishes of the US government. “I was told that war could break out at any minute. That’s how dangerous it was,” he said afterwards.

Graham, a staunch anti-communist, was interviewed on national television and visited Kim Il Sung University, where he spoke in front of 400 students and faculty.

“One of my reasons for going at this time was to express my concern for peace in the region and to make whatever small contribution I could to better relations between our two nations,” he said later of his visit.

American Christians have a long and complicated history with this part of the world. For decades, the US has had a significant military presence in South Korea. Prior to the Korean War, which began in 1950, hundreds of missionaries spread the gospel throughout Korea, which was one undivided peninsula for centuries.

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the 1953 Korean War armistice, an agreement which ended the military fighting but left the Korean people divided into two isolated countries without a peace treaty. Given the US history of intervention and presence in this part of the world, and following the lead of Korean people working for peace and gaining inspiration from Graham’s courage, American Christians have a responsibility …

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