Handshake during the meeting

Lutz Drescher meeting Kim Dae-jung, former president of South Korea and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for his work for democracy, human rights, peace and reconciliation (Blue House, Seoul, 2001).


It was during the Kirchentag, a huge church event, in Berlin, in June 1989, that I met delegates of the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) for the first time. At that time, both Germany and Korea were divided into countries. If somebody had told us that only five months later, the Berlin Wall would fall and the way to reunification in Germany would be opened, we would have declared that person crazy,” expressed Drescher. He further added that as history has shown, that is precisely what transpired. On 11 November 1989, after protests and peaceful demonstrations in East Germany, where Christians played a crucial role, the German Democratic Republic announced the opening of the border. According to Drescher, this serves as a poignant reminder that predicting the future is elusive.

Drescher's story begins in 1987 when he took on the role of an ecumenical coworker for the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. "It was a privilege that I could serve the churches in Korea,” he said, reflecting the gratitude that still lingers after all these years. His journey led him to the Minjung Church, nestled in an urban poor area—a haven where faith and life intertwined seamlessly. "I was happy to share the life of the people,” he said.

The Minjung Church, a melting pot of stories and struggles, became a source of inspiration. "We met in small house prayer groups, reading the Bible, sharing our life stories, laughing, and often weeping together,” he recalled, painting a vivid picture of a community bound by shared experiences.

As South Korea underwent a transformative shift from military dictatorship to democracy, Drescher found himself at the forefront of historical change. "I became a close witness to the transformation of Korean society," said Drescher. Beyond the confines of the Minjung Church, Drescher assumed the role of a bridge builder, connecting Korean churches, the democracy movement, and the global stage. "I was in a constant process of getting informed and subsequently informing others,” he shared.

Dreschers story took a poignant turn as he recounted encounters with long-term prisoners of the Korean War—victims of a division etched into the Korean psyche. "Their stories became tales of hope," he said. Drescher's journey became a shared pilgrimage, a testimony to the enduring scars left by the Korean War.

Returning to Germany in 1995, Drescher's commitment to Korea persisted. As Asia liaison secretary, he made four visits to North Korea, unraveling the mysteries and dispelling myths surrounding the lives of its people. After my return to Germany, I continued to work on Korean matters, first as a volunteer and then from 2001 onwards in an official capacity. I became the Asia liaison secretary of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity and the managing director of the German East Asia Mission. We soon received an invitation from the Korean Christian Federation to visit the DPRK. Between 2002 and 2015, I visited North Korea four times with different delegations. I learned a lot during these visits," said Drescher.

In his role as honorary chair of the German East Asia Mission (DOAM), Drescher's commitment to peace and reconciliation shines through. He spoke passionately about DOAM's role in fostering connections between East Asian Christians and the German-speaking region.

Highlighting DOAM's role as a catalyst for international dialogue, two significant international symposia stand out, shared Drescher. The first, held in Tokyo in 2000, delved into the theme of "Forgiveness, reparation, and renunciation of violence: the church's responsibility for Truth, Reconciliation, and Peace in Korea, Japan, and Germany." It explored how churches grapple with the legacies of their respective countries' histories and what lessons can be drawn for a peaceful future. The second symposium in 2008, hosted in Seoul, focused on "Peace and Human Security: Global Insecurity and Overcoming Violence.” Drescher shared that in a concluding letter to the churches, participants voiced demands that ranged from lifting economic sanctions against North Korea to transforming the armistice between North Korea and the US into a peace treaty.

Commenting on the Korea Peace Appeal campaign—a beacon of hope in tumultuous times— Drescher emphasized the campaign's role in changing the narrative about North Korea. "We have to help people imagine that North Korea is a land where people live, lead their everyday lives, have hope and experience frustration, laugh and cry,” he said.

He holds a vision of a unified Korea, echoing the unexpected reunification of Germany in 1989. 

"I remember something Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote. It goes something like this: If we pay less attention to what people have done or not done and more to what they have suffered, then it becomes easier to love them.Remembering the pain and giving room to compassion and love in our hearts, we can find a starting point for a pilgrimage of reconciliation,” said Drescher.