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‘Kim Il Sung-ism’ and a Pastor

Posted July. 20, 2010 16:40,   


A newspaper carried Monday a photo of the Rev. Han Sang-ryeol, who observed South Korea with a telescope with the help of a North Korean soldier in the northern region of Panmunjom. Han is a South Korean who is on an illegal visit to the North. His photo was released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. Judging from the expression on Han’s face while watching the South, he might have been thinking, “What a weird place!” That is probably the expression the North wanted to portray on his face. Han has done a phenomenal job as an actor starring in a propaganda play written and directed by Pyongyang.

Han went to the North via China June 12 without government approval. In a news conference June 22, he demanded that South Korean authorities not “deny, disregard or insult the North Korean regime.” On the Cheonan sinking, Han said, “It is the epitome of lies instigated by President Lee Myung-bak.” When the pastor attended a welcoming gathering hosted by Pyongyang June 23, he said, “President Lee is bringing war to the Korean Peninsula.” While he used respectful terms such as “defense committee chairman” for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, he blasted the Lee Myung-bak administration as “the head of the enemy.” Such actions show Han is no better than anyone else in the reclusive Stalinist country.

Han’s behavior perhaps comes as no shock given his past history of defending North Korea’s propaganda against South Korea, including demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula, abolition of the National Security Law, and the North’s confederation model of unification. He referred to the Korean War, which was started by Kim Il Sung and killed millions, as a “patriotic war of unification.” Han also called Kim Jong Il’s “Dear Leader” politics as “peaceful politics (of the Korean Peninsula).” Never mind that Kim Jong Il’s sole intention is to strengthen the communist regime by passing power to his son with the military`s protection. Han also praised spies and North Korean partisans sent by Pyongyang as “patriotic martyrs for unification.” The groups he helped lead in South Korea, including the Citizen’s Solidarity for Peaceful Unification and the Korea Alliance of Progressive Movements, have always stood at the forefront of anti-U.S. protests. To them, anti-U.S. action is synonymous with worshipping North Korea.

Communism and Christianity cannot coexist since communism itself is no different from a religion. Though the North has churches and temples, they are empty due to lack of followers. Given the bleak religious reality of the North, it seems ironic that a South Korean Presbyterian pastor is passionate about spreading the values of “Kim Il Sung-ism.” His time as a pastor and unification activist would be better spent by helping starving North Koreans. Instead of watching over South Korea with a telescope, he should look more closely at the corners of North Korean society. If he finds paradise there, he might as well live there, too.

Editorial Writer Lee Jin-nyong (jinnyong@donga.com)