Letter to U.S. Department of State Regarding North Korea, February 12, 2019
February 12, 2019
Mr. Marc Knapper
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs
Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Knapper:
Given your current position and extensive experience in the Republic of Korea, I wanted to share some information gleaned from a trip I made to Korea December 18 – 23, 2018. As Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), this trip was a solidarity visit to learn more about the views of the current situation on the Korean Peninsula on the part of the Catholic Church in Korea.
I met with several bishops of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK): Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-Jung of Seoul; Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, Archbishop of Kwangju and CBCK President; Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon, Bishop of Uijeongbu and Chair of CBCK’s Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People; and Bishop Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il, Bishop of the Korean Military Ordinariate. In addition, I met with the Korean Minister for Unification Cho Myung-gyon, lay leaders and academics. Most expressed some urgency for forward movement on U.S.-DPRK negotiations.
The CBCK fully supports President Moon Jae-in’s efforts to promote peace on the Korean peninsula. While some may differ on the pace of opening to North Korea, there was unanimity in supporting denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and continued dialogue to resolve conflicts. The CBCK asked that I share these requests for support on the following issues:
- Humanitarian assistance to North Korea – I was pleased to hear that the United States is now allowing delivery of legitimate humanitarian aid into North Korea. This issue is a top priority for the Korean bishops who say sanctions on money transfers, transportation and travel all impeded the provision of vital medicine, water and sanitation equipment, and food from getting to millions of North Koreans in dire need. The tuberculosis program run by the Maryknoll Fathers on behalf of the Eugene Bell Foundation was interrupted due to sanctions, endangering the health of patients under treatment.
- Separated Families – CBCK strongly supports efforts to allow the meeting of families, separated for 70 years following the Korean war. Given North Korea’s sensitivity about exposing its people to the South, video technology may be an alternative way to connect families, but sanctions appear to be preventing the export of such video equipment to the North.
- International Support to Resolve Korean Conflict – The conflict on the Korean peninsula presents an array of challenges involving nuclear and conventional arms, vast economic disparities between North and South Korea, and the possibility of large-scale movement of refugees. Given the complex nature of the crisis on the Korean peninsula and its potential for igniting a regional as well as global arms race, the CBCK asks that political leaders from the major powers support negotiations and dialogue, and take a measured approach to build the confidence and trust that will allow for the easing of sanctions and improvement of economic relations and exchanges as North Korea takes steps to denuclearize.
The USCCB will continue to monitor the situation on the Korean peninsula closely. I would be happy to meet with you and your staff on the Korea Desk to share more of my observations.
Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services, USA
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace