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The Peninsula

Religious Group Advocates for People to People Diplomacy

Published June 23, 2020

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • On June 16, North Korea blew up its joint liaison office with South Korea in a display of antagonism towards the Moon administration for failing to prevent activists from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets.
  • As a response to the demolition of the building, the Korean Conference of Religions and Peace (KCRP) issued a statement cautioning for calm amid rising inter-Korean tensions.
  • In the statement, KCRP also called for both Koreas to expand the role of cooperative projects, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang tour program.

Implications: Bolstered by the Moon administration’s efforts to enhance people-to-people ties between North and South Korea, the KCRP represents one of many domestic stakeholders that will continue to advocate for engagement with Pyongyang despite deteriorating conditions. While the latest provocations by North Korea diminish the likelihood of near-term talks between the governments, these grassroots organizations will prevent the political appetite for engagement from falling to zero. In fact, the stalled diplomatic process has pushed these grassroots organizations to more actively underscore the importance of individual-level inter-Korean projects.

Context: Founded in 1968, The Korean Conference of Religions and Peace is a leadership group that represents seven major religions in South Korea. As a pan-religious consultative body, KCRP has long championed interfaith cooperation as a means for engaging the two Koreas. In 2017, members of the group discussed matters related to inter-Korean exchange with Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s newly elected president at the time.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of James Constant, Sonia Kim, and Ingyeong Park.

Picture from flickr account of user Brian Hammonds

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