Some 100,000 mostly conservative South Korean Christians staged a massive rally on Monday, Oct. 4, 2004, during which Christian leaders prayed for the purity of the church, the repentance of the nation, and the freedom of North Koreans.
Rev. Sung Kyuu Choi of the Pure Gospel Church in InCheon began the rally with a short speech thanking God for the large gathering.
“I hope there will be no misunderstanding about this gathering being political, because this is a purely Christian meeting," said Choi.
Rev. Choi emphasized, amid avid applause, that “the work of the Korea Church is to love the nation and to love God," and that “though there are many things the Korean church must do, it must first repent and go forthright."
He also said that “while there may have been some mistakes in the past 120 years, the affect of the Korean Church has been nonetheless positive for the Korean society."
The rally at Seoul’s City Hall plaza, in the heart of the nation’s capital, drew mostly elderly people, including Korean War veterans and Christian conservatives.
While much of the rally was focused on the repentance of the church, the lead speakers also took time to pray for the political leaders, including the South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun.
In recent months, President Roh and his Uri Party had been at odds with Christian Conservatives, mostly because of his liberal stance on North Korea.
Roh and his backers have been lobbying to eradicate the National Security Law, a legislation adopted during the height of the Cold War to jail those who work for enemies of the North Korean state and their sympathizers. Under the law, contracts with the North -- including those signed by Roh in recent years to “reconcile" the North and the South -- are banned.
The Rev. Yong Gi Choi, a prominent conservative Christian leader in South Korea, meanwhile led the prayer for National security.
Comparing the National Security Law to a front gate, Rev. Choi emphasized the need to establish a strong gate.
“The front gate must be strong. No matter how strong the fence, if the front gate is open, invaders can enter to the living room," said Choi.
“However, society is trying to fling open the front gates," continued Choi, in reference to the Uri Party’s effort to scrap an anti-communist law and begin talks with the North Korean regime. “When the front gate is open, Korea will be ruined."
Continuing on, Rev. Choi noted that there are some who “criticize the National Security Law for being irrational."
However, rather than abolishing the law, Choi said it is better to modify the law to make it more visible.
If the “gate is too large to maintain, then at least establish a smaller gate that is maintainable," said Choi.
Rev. Choi warned that if the National Security Law is abolished, “the North Korean Labor Party cannot be stopped nor punished," and that the “The North Korean thought and core phenomena cannot be halted."
“Even if the media outlets and newspapers praise the political power of Kim Jong Il (the current dictator of North Korea) nothing can be done to halt them," said Choi. “And even If there is a service commemorating the life of Kim Il Sung (the deceased North Korean dictator) on the streets of Seoul, nothing can be done to stop it."
Thus, Choi said, South Korea is standing in a position where it would be impossible to abolish the National Security law.
Ultimately, Choi commented that the gatherers are “here to seek God’s help, not to start a riot. God is the center of history. We are here to pray that the wisdom of God is with our president. We also must repent for being self centered and not having prayed for the nation and America."
Following the prayers, led by nearly a dozen renowned conservative Christian pastors, the gatherers burned North Korean flags and carried a mock plastic missile to denounce the North’s nuclear program. Marchers also carried placards that read, “Down with Kim Jong-il!" and “Support North Korean Human Rights."
The South Korean rally comes only one week after the North Korea Human Rights Act (H.R. 4011) passed both houses of Congress in the United States.
Entitled, “The North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004," the bill provides financial support to private, nonprofit human rights and democracy programs and increases US broadcasting into North Korea, among other initiatives. The bill was passed on Tuesday, Sept 27, at the Senate; it passed the House on July.
"Everybody is familiar with the six-party talks that are going on regarding North Korea and nuclear weapons and the threatening nature of the North Korean government," said Senator Sam Brownback, a chief proponent of the bill, on the floor of the Senate Tuesday.
"We hope to get the issue of human rights in North Korea elevated to the same level or in the level with the talks in the six-party system.
"North Korea has more than 200,000 political prisoners in concentration camps and jails. North Korea carries out experiments and executions in gas chambers. North Korea is very clearly a charter member of the Axis of Evil," Brownback continued.
"We are elevating this issue and making clear the United States government position on the issue of human rights in North Korea," he said.
Meanwhile, the North Korea Freedom Coalition, the premier group in support of human rights in North Korea, applauded the passage of the bill.
“This legislation sends a powerful message to the North Korean people that we care deeply about the suffering they have endured under the Kim Jong-il regime," said Suzanne Scholte, Vice Chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition. “During this highly charged election season, the U.S. Congress has set aside all partisan differences to declare in one voice that human rights and freedom should be promoted fro the people of North Korea."
“Nowhere on the globe are there worse human rights abuses than under the brutal dictatorship of Kim Jong-il," said Sandy Rios, Chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition. “When we speak of ‘human rights' in North Korea we are talking about insuring the right NOT to starve or cannibalize or survive; the right NOT to be tortured and imprisoned by their own government; the right NOT to killed at the whim of a cruel dictator and his minions; the right for a woman NOT to be sold into sexual slavery or have her baby pulled from her arms and murdered in her presence."
The last step remaining for the passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act is for President Bush to sign it into law.