CARDINAL Stephen Kim of Seoul called for reunification of the divided Korean peninsula and urged North Korea to participate in the September Olympic Games last week.
In a statement marking the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan in 1945, Cardinal Kim likened the 43 years of division endured by the Korean people to the suffering of the Israelites wandering in the desert. He declared that genuine liberation is not something bestowed but created by people in humble response to God's will.
In an apparent reference to university student demonstrations, stepped up during the previous two weeks to demand a role for students in the "reunification process," Cardinal Kim said that extreme radicalism and social revolution run counter to the process of democratisation.
He criticised South Korea's institutional violence and urged the government of President Rob Tae Woo to cut the web of hatred and systematic violence manifest in "black lists" that companies use to terrorise workers struggling for their rights.
The cardinal ended with a call for North Korean participation in the Olympic Games, scheduled to open in Seoul on September 1'7, and with a plea for the release of hundreds of prisoners of conscience in South Korean jails. Local Catholics believe it is too late to expect the North Koreans to participate in the games, although September 2 is the deadline for that decision. Many Catholics also think that the government's way of handling the prisoner issue — only 36 political prisoners were freed on Liberation Day — means that the problem will not be resolved before the Olympics.
The same day that Cardinal Kim highlighted the futility of violence as an avenue to political or social progress, riot police and about 5,000 students clashed. Police forcibly blocked the students from marching to the North-South border, where they had hoped to talk with North Korean students about reunification.
South Korean professors have said they believe Roh will declare an "Olympic holiday" from classes, to make attempts by radical students to organise their protests much more difficult.
Several professors also said the radicals — estimated to number no more than 10,000 or 2 percent of the whole student population — do not speak for all when they call for an Olympic boycott if North Korea does not participate.