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Dennis Rodman and Korea

April 3, 2013

Not long ago the world watched as Dennis Rodman, with all his tattoos and piercings, entered North Korea. Why would he do that? That is the still an unanswered question. Yet, regardless of the “why,” it appears he made some conversational headway with the leadership in the reclusive, totalitarian country. Now, just several weeks removed from the Dennis Rodman trip, the world sits watching again as the United States and South Korea go through the routines of their annual military training exercises and North Korea stares back at the South blustering with words of war.

Where does this leave the Christian community? There are things which Believers need to take into account. First, there is mass suffering of the non-military population in North Korea. Starvation is the parasite which is attacking this innocent civilian populace. Second, there is nothing to gain for either side if a massive war was conducted on the Korean Peninsula. This would only further decimate the quality of life for everyone on the peninsula. Last, a conflict between these two countries is not in the best interest of the region, nor the world at large. It could ignite a larger conflict in the region.

The first conflict took place between 1950 and 1953. This claimed approximately 5 million lives, of which an estimated fifty percent were Korean civilians. This tragic and massive loss of civilians equals roughly ten percent of the prewar population of Korea. That war was fought in a period of developing weaponry. If North and South Korea cannot reach a peaceful settlement, the death and destruction could be apocalyptic. Modern weaponry and tactics would be so destructive as to make the entire peninsula a death trap for all. If nuclear weapons are introduced by either side, the whole region would be at risk.

While customs and cultures of the countries of East Asia are not my expertise, there is an inherited culture of conflict between these two countries. While long memories may keep these hostilities alive, someone, somewhere, must devise a plan to bring these two nations to the table for serious conversations about peace. The mindset must be changed from “preparing for war” to “ushering in peace.” The status quo has not been, nor does it continue to be, effective. Change must come.

That brings us back to Dennis Rodman. How did Dennis Rodman get meetings with the top leadership in North Korea? I imagine it was pretty simple. Rodman is a famous man and still garners media attention. He is not a politician. A politician is the last thing he is. One can only imagine he had ideas which politicians would never consider to bring to the table. Then again, for all we know they talked basketball. Regardless, Rodman received a warm welcome. Could it have been for propaganda? It very well could be. Yet, it is critical to ignore that and make a good faith effort to start a lasting conversation, a real conversation, on bringing peace to the area. It would require real steps, real actions, which would move toward a peaceful peninsula. A neutral envoy could be used to sit between the two sides and try to mediate the conversation. The goal must be movement towards a sustainable peace.

To date, all the political wrangling by the United States, the United Nations, and North Korea have led nowhere except poverty, starvation, and the brink of war. It is time for something new, something novel. It is time to get creative and make a change. The voice of the church must speak for those without voices in this situation. The body must speak for the starving, the widowed, and the orphans of both sides. Let’s, and I cannot believe I am going to say this, be a little more like Dennis Rodman. Be novel. Be new and work towards peace. Doing the same thing over the past 60 years has not solved the issue. The saber-rattling needs to be silenced so the cries of the least of these can be heard and helped.

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