North Korea offered to co-host ceremony for Chondogyo anniversary
North Korea has proposed talks to discuss religious and humanitarian issues in time for the April 5 anniversary of Chondogyo, a Korean religion.
“The North made an offer on Feb. 2 to hold a joint anniversary ceremony in Seoul,” Yim Woon-kil, the supreme leader of Chondogyo, said during an exclusive interview with The Korea Times at his office in central Seoul.
He said the proposal was made by representatives of Cheongwoodang (youth political party), a body of North Korea’s Chondogyo, led by Yoo Mi-young. Yoo is the daughter of the late legendary independence activist Yoo Duk-ryul who was active in North Korea.
Pyongyang wants to hold a working-level meeting in Gaeseong, North Korea, to discuss the matter, Yim said.
“Given the lingering tension between the South and North, we have yet to discuss details with government authorities such as the Ministry of Unification on whether to proceed with the proposal or not,” he said.
In North Korea, religious bodies including Chondogyo are politically motivated, though there are allegedly a huge number of Chondogyo believers active underground.
Inter-Korean relations have remained tense since the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea, killing two civilians and two soldiers. North Korea has also been accused of torpedoing the frigate Cheonan in March last year that claimed the lives of 46 sailors.
On Sunday, Pyongyang threatened to attack Seoul should the latter go ahead with the annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle joint military exercise with the United States.
Yim said the North seems to be seeking economic assistance including food aid through the proposal. North Korea has been suffering from food shortages, which have allegedly led to uprisings in several cities, mainly in North Pyeongan Province near the border with China.
He cited the need for South Korea to continue to provide humanitarian aid despite the soured relations. “Food assistance should be made regardless of the tense situation to help the needy,” he said.
Yim vowed Chondogyo will make efforts to lay the groundwork for reunification based on the principles of self-reliance and peace.
“Just as Chondogyo took initiatives in previous national movements like the Donghak (East Learning) Movement and March 1 Independence Movement, we have already embarked on exploring reunification,” he said.
He added Chondogyo will make maximum efforts to expand its influence in the global community as well as in the nation, describing it as “the religion of the cosmos that blossomed in Korea.”
Chondogyo once flourished as the nation’s representative religion with some 6 million believers in the early 1910s. “But Chondogyo has failed to grow due mainly to huge sacrifices for the sake of the nation and the harsh situation including suppression by the government,” he said.
Yim stressed the expansionary campaign will be made through mental and spiritual awakening rather than sticking to the hitherto social participation.