A South Korean group representing the country's six major religions issued a statement Wednesday, calling on all sides to maintain calm amid heightened tensions following North Korea's demolition of a joint liaison office.
The Korean Conference of Religions and Peace (KCRP) said the destruction of the joint office in the North Korean border city of Kaesong on Tuesday, threats by Pyongyang to redeploy troops in key areas along the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two sides and demands for a strong response in the South do nothing to resolve the current situation.
"It is our belief that a hardline stance will not help at this stage," the organization said.
The KCRP, created in 1965, said that while the current circumstances are challenging, the present standoff can be turned around for the better and used to expand the role of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mt. Kumkang tour program. It said such projects, that have been viewed symbols of what can go right between the two Koreas, can create a bright arena of peace and prosperity for all concerned.
South Korea pulled out of Kaesong in early 2016 after the North conducted its fourth nuclear test, with tours to the scenic mountains on North Korea's east coast having been suspended since 2008 following the shooting of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean guard.
"As the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic, the South and the North should strive to join forces and come up with ways to plan for a future together," the joint statement said.
The group added that it is best to engage in dialogue when conditions are most difficult, stressing that the latest confrontation can be used as a foundation for all sides to fulfill all their prior promises. It said all KCRP members are praying for everyone to become one again.
The religious group has been a strong advocate of peace on the Korean Peninsula. The National Council of Churches in Korea, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism Confucianism, the Catholics Bishops' Conference of Korea, as well as Won Buddhism, Chondogyo and the Association for Korean Native Religions, are all KCRP members. (Yonhap)