The International Prayer Week for North Korea concluded on Sunday, a day after Human Rights Day and after a week of vigils and prayers that brought the churches in South Korea as well as the international community together.
On Saturday, the Seoul Summit closed its historic three-day gathering, which involved human rights and Christian activists and politicians from around the world to discuss serious concerns over human rights abuses in North Korea. Participants drew up a declaration with exhortations to the totalitarian regime to improve its human rights situation and a commitment on the part of the international community to stay on top of the issue by sustaining dialogue and campaign.
On the night of the summit's conclusion, thousands of people showed their support in promoting North Korean human rights at a concert held at Cheonggye Square in Seoul. Church leaders and concert performers overlooked a sea of yellow handkerchiefs and balloons in the large crowd of around 2,000 people as they delivered messages and performed musical acts, respectively. The thousands of people shouted in sync, "Sunshine to the North," which served as the summit's theme in the past few days.
The yellow ribbons stand as a symbol of hope that the fellow Korean brethren will be safe and brought back from the North.
Attendants who stood out in the severe cold watched a documentary showing the situation of North Korean refugees in China. Human rights and Christians groups have protested against China's repatriation against North Korean defectors, and on Friday, U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights, Jay Lefkowitz, called on China to improve its treatment of the refugees.
China repatriates up to 400 defectors to the North every week, activists say, where they can face harsh punishment.
Lefkowitz made an appearance at the concert, telling the audience that when the truth is spoken with courage, the truth will be conveyed to the people who are dying.
Following the concert was a massive candlelight prayer gathering that involved South Korea's churches in front of the city hall. Some 20,000 people attended the meeting, organized by the Christian Council of Korea, holding candles and signs and crying out in prayers for the people suffering in North Korea. The churches decided to call Dec. 11 North Korean Human Rights Day, following the internationally-observed Human Rights Day.
Despite the end of North Korea prayer week, the international community along with South Korean churches will continue efforts to improve the human rights situation with the launch of an international network and the organization of promoting human rights.
Seoul Church will hold a Christian rally on Dec. 12 for North Korean human rights and freedom of religion.