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16 October 2000

WCC general secretary lauds Nobel Peace Prize winner President Kim Dae-jung

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, on Friday sent a letter to H.E. Dr Kim Dae-jung, President of the Republic of Korea, expressing his "deep satisfaction and joy" on the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award Dr Kim the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr Raiser underscored Kim Dae-jung's long and difficult struggle in pursuit of peace and democracy and recalled how the ecumenical community has accompanied efforts toward reconciliation and the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula.

The full text of the letter follows:

"Your Excellency,

May I take this opportunity to express my deep satisfaction and joy at the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award you with this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

This decision honors you as a statesman who has committed his entire life to the struggle against authoritarian rule and to work for democratization and for the unification of the Korean peninsula. In this long and arduous journey, Your Excellency has undergone much pain and suffering. I recall the tragic events of Kwang-ju when you had to suffer incarceration followed by a period of trials and tribulation in exile. Those were difficult days. Along with you many Christians and church leaders underwent imprisonment and torture for raising their voice against injustice. It was at the height of this repression in January 1981, when I had the opportunity to visit South Korea with a WCC sponsored ecumenical team. The purpose of the visit was to express pastoral concern and solidarity of the ecumenical community with the life and witness of the local churches. The Council at the time was deeply concerned by the developments that were taking place and the repression that was being unleashed on the people. The WCC made an impassioned appeal to the Korean government to ensure that Your Excellency and other defendants received a fair trial with due process.

I recall the several meetings I had with you over the years when I visited Korea, the last one being in April 1999, when I was on my way back from North Korea. We discussed, among others, the response of the North Korean government to your "sunshine policy". I was impressed by your readiness to set aside serious ideological and political concerns in the pursuit of peace. The international community placed much hope in your single-mindedness to pursue peace despite temporary setbacks and difficulties. Your visit to North Korea early this year was a major breakthrough and a well-deserved reward for your untiring efforts. The "sunshine policy" is very much in line with the ecumenical framework for peaceful reunification of Korea. The World Council of Churches, as you know, has been working towards the reunification of Korea since the Church Leaders' Consultation at Tozanso in 1984. This consultation paved the way for a series of meetings between Christians of North and South Korea. I am hopeful that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize will go a long way to accelerate the unification process.

As you continue to implement your "sunshine policy" we offer you congratulations on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and assure you of our continuing prayers and support."

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.