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Nurturing a vision for peacemaking in Korea


Kyong-Jung Kim, Director of KAC (left) and Jae Young Lee, Peace Program Coordinator, are two of several Canadian Mennonite Bible College (now Canadian Mennonite University) graduates who translated the spirit of  Anabaptism into a Korean context for church and wider society.

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Mennonite Church Canada/Canadian Mennonite University joint release
April 5, 2011
-Abe Bergen

Winnipeg, MAN. —  Her son had been waiting in line to buy his lunch at school when a bully pushed him out of his place. A fight broke out and the boy ended up in the hospital.

The victim’s mother, a single parent whose husband had died in an accident 12 years earlier, felt alone and frustrated. Many who spoke to her after this violation were dismissive - “It’s no big deal. It happens all the time. That’s what boys do,” they commented.

She was under a lot of pressure to let it go and make nothing of it. In her view, forgetting about it was not right; the bully needed to be punished. This was the only way for justice to be served.

Confused, alone, vulnerable, and afraid, the victim’s mother did not know what to do until she learned about a mediation group sponsored by the Korea Anabaptist Center (KAC), a partner of Mennonite Church Canada. They told her about an approach that would bring justice for the victim and resolve the situation in a healthier way. This was the restorative justice model. She was interested, a mediation committee was put in place, and conversations began.

During the mediation process, victim impact statements were read, apologies were expressed, monetary compensation was arranged and reconciliation happened. She agreed not to press charges. The perpetrator did not go to jail or receive a criminal record. The court decided that a just resolution had been reached and no further punishment was required.

The woman had grown up in the church in Korea, but left many years ago. Now she became interested in connecting with this Christian community and has since become active in the work of KAC.

KAC is a beacon of peacemaking in the city of Seoul, Korea and beyond. From their studies at Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC), now Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), leaders like Kyong-Jung Kim, Director of KAC and Jae Young Lee, Peace Program Coordinator are bringing  a theology of peace and models of peacemaking  to the churches and other institutions. Through their efforts, mediation committees are being established within the judicial system.  And acceptance for another way of resolving conflict is increasing.

In addition to the work of restorative justice, KAC established Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI) and developed a regional network of 200 individuals and organizations interested in collaborating on peace efforts. When tensions between North and South Korea erupted in a Nov. 23 artillery exchange, KAC and NARPI issued a proposal for peace that called for the resumption of dialogue, disarmament, and respect for the previously established demilitarized zone.

Korea Anabaptist Press, KAC’s publishing arm, has also translated 19 core Anabaptist books into the Korean language to help nurture an understanding and a vision for peacemaking within Korean society, through churches, and through a network of congregations called Korean Anabaptist Fellowship (KAF). Witness Workers Marian and Erv Wiens are currently serving both the KAC and the KAF.

Since 2002, Mennonite Church Canada has sent CMU interns to serve at KAC, and graduates to work at Connexus, KAC’s English teaching ministry. With the ongoing support of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, and further training at Associate Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Eastern Mennonite University, efforts toward nurturing restorative justice in Korea are being strengthened.

Abe Bergen, Director of Enrolment Services, Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), visited the Korea Anabaptist Center in Seoul in early November 2010. He participated in a restorative justice workshop and joined in KAC’s 9th Anniversary celebrations. This article first appeared in the CMU Spring 2011 issue of Blazer and has been adapted for use here by permission.