World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

13 April 1999


For the first time in its history North Korea will receive a visit from a general secretary of the World Council of Churches. On 17 April, WCC general secretary, Dr Rev. Konrad Raiser, accompanied by an ecumenical delegation, will arrive in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, for a three-day visit. He will meet with North Korean head of state Kim Jong-Il and with representatives of the Korean Christian Federation, among others. On 20 April Raiser will travel on to South Korea.

This visit is taking place, according to Dr Raiser, "in the context of more than ten years of WCC efforts to promote a process of reconciliation between the North and the South of this divided country, and to further the attempts to bring about reunification in the long term... In this context, the visit, which is being treated as a 'virtual state visit' by both North and South Korea, could again bring to mind the honourable role of the WCC and the churches affiliated with it as brokers in the peace process," the WCC general secretary said.

In view of North Korea's food shortages, Dr Raiser will also emphasize the readiness of ecumenical partner organizations to continue humanitarian aid. His schedule includes participating in the presentation of an aid shipment coordinated by "Action by Churches Together" (ACT).

Reconciliation issues will also be central in the meeting with South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung.

At the political level, the WCC general secretary would like to "deepen our relationships with the new government and president" and to "express our joy that the many years of struggle for human rights and for getting beyond authoritarian structures in South Korea have borne fruit".

In addition, in view of the Asian financial crisis and the economic tensions in South Korea, Raiser hopes to find out "how the South Korean government and churches are adjusting to the changed situation, and how traditional economic structures are being adapted to the new conditions".

Another high point of the three-day visit to Seoul will be the 75-year jubilee of the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK). Dr Raiser will take part in a jubilee symposium.

The NCCK, says Dr Raiser, has been making great efforts in recent decades to broaden its constituency, which now includes Pentecostal and evangelical churches. In the meeting with NCCK representatives, Dr Raiser hopes for a sharing of ideas on the extent to which this "broadening of the ecumenical constituency could be usefully pursued by the WCC as well".

The members of the ecumenical delegation accompanying WCC general secretary Dr Rev. Konrad Raiser are: WCC Asia secretary Park Kyung Seo, WCC secretary for international affairs Clement John, and WCC audiovisual media coordinator Peter Williams. ACT coordinator Miriam Lutz and Hannelore Hensle of the Evangelical Church in Germany's Diaconal Service will join the delegation during its visit to North Korea.

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, 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.