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Landmines reignite Korean conflict

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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South Korean Army soldiers search for landmines possibly washed away by torrential rains from the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, into a rice field in Yeoncheon, north of Seoul, South Korea, August 8, 2002 (Credit: AP Photo/Yonhap)

Tensions in Korea are on the rise once again after two South Korean soldiers were severely injured by landmines recently planted on their side of the Demilitarized Zone by their Northern adversaries. One soldier lost part of each of his legs while the other had to have his foot removed at the ankle. While some had speculated that the mines, made of wood in order to be more difficult to detect, could have simply washed down with a recent storm, a UN investigation into the explosions determined that they had been planted recently by North Korea.

In response, South Korea says that it will resume broadcasting propaganda across the DMZ and into North Korea, a measure they ceased more than 10 years ago as a show of good faith when relations between the two countries were improving. According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the giant loudspeakers are capable of sending their message roughly 15 miles at night and around 7-8 miles during the weekdays. As Professor Lee Jung-hoon of Yonsei University in Seoul said of the broadcasts, “basically the message is: the current leader is doing a very bad job, that their human rights are being violated, and that there’s a much better world outside that they should be aware of.”

While that may not seem like a very strong response, there is little they could have done short of a direct assault that would anger the North Korean government more. As Lee pointed out, for North Koreans “Kim Jong Un, as his father and his father’s father was, is not just a political leader, he’s a deity figure…For the leadership, just the fact that there’s the public condemnation and criticism of this godlike figure is just totally unacceptable.”

To further complicate matters, North and South Korea are still technically at war. In 1953, the two sides agreed to an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty, meaning that the fighting would stop but the war has never actually ended. Consequently, it would be far easier for such attacks to escalate than if the two sides were at peace.

For now, it appears that the tenuous truce will survive North Korea’s latest violation. Of course, that could change once South Korea begins broadcasting what Kim Jong Un and his government are likely to see as blasphemy. Should they choose to respond with further violence, it is all too possible that the matter will continue to escalate.

Ronald Reagan once said that “Peace is more than just an absence of war. True peace is justice, true peace is freedom, and true peace dictates the recognition of human rights.” The uneasy truce that exists between North and South Korea demonstrates the truth of those words. There cannot be true peace in a relationship, whether it’s between nations or individuals, without justice, freedom, and respect for the other person.

But what do we do when the other party refuses to pursue such peace? Paul’s instruction to the Romans is helpful: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:16-19, 21; emphasis added).

Essentially, live in such a way that makes it easy for others to be at peace with you and, should they choose to still seek conflict, don’t let their actions determine yours. Be the bigger person. While that is far easier said than done, every Christian has been given the power and presence of the one who perfectly lived out that calling, and the Holy Spirit stands ready to help us do the same.

However, God has left it to us to determine whether or not we will rely on the Spirit’s help to live such a life. Every time we are faced with conflict, the only choice that really matters to our walk with Christ is the one we make. So decide today that you will live at peace with others wherever possible and rely on God’s help when it’s not. Such a life described our Lord. Will it describe you?

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