South Korea and North Korea have been engaged in dialogue for decades since the Korean Peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel after World War II, with the Soviet government backing the north and the United States supporting the south.
Two million Korean people died in the Korean War that followed from 1950 to 1953. The Korean Peninsula remains technically still at war, 68 years after the signing of the armistice.
In the 70 years of division, North Korea and South Korea have diverged sharply both economically and culturally.
North Korea has one of the worst human rights records in the world. A United Nations investigation in 2014 documented crimes against humanity, including execution, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, forced abortions, and knowingly causing prolonged starvation.
There are believed to be an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in North Korea's six political prison camps, according to the U.S. State Department, which cites North Korean defector testimonies of starvation, forced labor, and torture.
“We might say that peace is friendship,” Parolin said in his speech.
“This means starting anew from processes that foster efforts to promote reconciliation, forgiveness, and rapprochement in the knowledge that this is a new path, a path to be traveled together with no one left behind,” the cardinal said.
Parolin said that “diplomacy is precisely the attempt to overcome all barriers and to come together to address the problems facing humanity today.”
The cardinal was asked to speak to the forum on “The Role of the Church to Build Peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
Catholic bishops in Korea have been leading Catholics in prayer for the reconciliation and unity of the divided Korean peninsula for decades.
According to Archbishop Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju, Korean Catholics have observed June 25 as a day of prayer for the Korean Peninsula since 1965. The Korean bishops’ conference also established a Special Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People in 1997.
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The persecution of Christians is worse in North Korea than anywhere else in the world, according to the World Watch List compiled by Open Doors, which estimates that there could be as many as 300,000 Christians practicing their faith underground in North Korea. Christians within the atheist state have faced arrest, re-education in a labor camp, or, in some cases, execution for their faith.
“The Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church in the Modern World thus states that peace is more than the absence of war. It cannot be reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces, nor does it arise from out of a despotic dominium … It is the fruit of that right ordering of things with which the divine founder has invested the human society,” Parolin said.
“Peace is also the fruit of love, for love goes beyond what justice can achieve. We can say that peace is the fruit, not only of justice, but also of charity, the fruit of love. Whereas justice demands that we not violate the rights of others, and give to each individual what is due, charity makes us feel the needs of others, as our own, and fosters fruitful cooperation,” he said.