Since the end of World War II, Korea has been divided into two countries: the Republic of Korea in the South, with a capitalist economy and close to 50 million inhabitants, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North, with a communist economy and about half the population. Relations between the two countries are tense. An historic peace accord was signed on October 4th, 2007 between the two leaders: Roh Moo-Hyun from the South, and Kim Jong-Il from the North. This officially ended the Korean War, which started back in 1950. It was only a cease-fire that was signed in 1953. However, in recent years, North Korea has been stepping up its provocations, in particular with its nuclear testing. North Korea has become the ninth country to possess nuclear weapons.
Invited by South Korea peace organizations, the World March was moved by the stories shared by their Korean friends, who still feel the pain from decades of tension and separation. “It has been 50 years since I have laid eyes on my family,” one of them confided, gazing longingly to the other side of the Han River, which marks the border. “And I still hope to return to the place of my birth [in North Korea] before I die.” The Koreans expressed their thanks to the international team of marchers who came to them to understand, share, and give a voice to their tragedy from the other side of the walls of irrationality, pride, and silence that people have built. Yet these same people can also build bridges for a future of unity and brotherhood. It is with these hopes that the base team set foot on Korean soil.
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*(Translation provided by Patrick C. Yancey)*