The DMZ, demilitarized zone – marked with barbed wire and guard posts – is a stark reminder that Korea is divided, and many Koreans on both sides are separated from their birthplaces, their friends and family members.
On Monday, Sept. 26, the New England pilgrims visited Imjingak, a park and tourist destination located about 4 miles from the Military Demarcation Line.
On the way to Imjingak, Rev. Eun-pa Hong, who was born in 1949, talked about the danger his father, also a pastor, faced while in North Korea. The Communists were killing Christians, so his father left his family in the North and traveled to South Korea.
It was Rev. Hong’s mother who brought him and his three sisters, he was a year old at the time, to the South. They family traveled slowly and by night, at one point crossing swamp. It was his mother’s prayers, Rev. Hong said, that got the family through a swamp and finally to safety.
Imjingak was built in 1972 as a place for those who are unable to return to their hometowns, friends and families because of the division of Korea. The three-story observation deck is surrounded by several monuments and Unification Park. The Gyeongui Train Line, which used to cross the Imjin River and continue into what is now North Korea, was destroyed in the Korean War. A locomotive is one of the site’s landmarks.
Koreans separated from their families in the North visit Imjingak to perform ancestral rites by bowing toward their hometowns particularly on holidays such as New Year's Day and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving).
Pastor Lourey Savick asked if the pilgrims could offer a prayer at the site, and read from Psalm 91:2: "I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."'
The pilgrims joined hands and Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and Conference Lay Leader Rene Wilbur offered prayers.