Faith At Work: Life, Law and the Future of Korea

Faith At Work: Life, Law and the Future of Korea


It was fantastic to have a full-house for our first Faith at Work Dialogue for 2018.


CCER’s executive director, Tony Farley, sat down with Supreme Court judge, Michael Pembroke, for this public forum in which prominent Australians discuss how their personal beliefs and experiences intersect with their professional lives.


A man of many trades, Michael Pembroke is not only a Supreme Court judge, but also a former commercial lawyer, naturalist and an historian with a particular interest and expertise in the Korean Peninsula.


So, it was a distinguished legal mind that talked us through some of the little-known drivers behind this ongoing conflict and explained why this diplomatic tinderbox continues to make headlines in 2018.



As with many of our previous guests, Justice Pembroke’s fascinating and unique childhood played a central role in shaping his approach to work, motivations and spirituality.


The son of a military officer, he spent many years travelling the world on ships, with horizons wider than many of us can imagine.


In fact, he feels his youthful trajectory was cut short by eventually settling down in one spot, boarding at a school in Sydney where there was less room for creativity, exploration and expression.


Justice Pembroke eventually studied law at the University of Sydney and built up his own practice – all the while parking his inner explorer.



But things were to change once he reached Cambridge, where he made the conscious decision to live outside of his previous circles and connect with students from a variety of countries.  The local landscape also introduced him to gardening and fueled this life-long passion for nature.


It was fascinating to get a preview of his illuminating book Korea: Where the American Century Began which offers a perspective on the conflict we don’t often hear from the major news outlets or Western diplomats and historians.


Justice Pembroke firmly believes that without a final peace deal the denuclearisation of North Korea will never be achieved. Rather than as a condition of peace, he argues, it will be what follows it.


It’s a somewhat controversial idea considering that, for so long, key foreign powers have refused to sit down with North Korean leaders until they dismantled their nuclear programme.  The entry of current US president, Donald Trump, into the equation – and his unorthodox methods – may have an effect on the Korean peninsula than none before him could have had.


Already we have seen an historic summit between Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in – at which the North Korean leader signalled he would be willing to shut-down his nuclear weapons programme.


And now, as the world gears up for Kim to meet Trump, at the very first direct talks between US and North Korean leaders, it seems Michael Pembroke’s blue-print for peace on the peninsula might well be playing out.


If you want to hear the discussion on this, plus the rest of the Dialogue including Justice Pembroke’s views on truth, childhood letter writing and the effectiveness of the UN, it is available as a podcast here.


This Faith at Work Dialogue could not have been more timely.  If you want to join us for the next event in the series, make sure you keep an eye out for our emails.  We’ll keep you posted so that you can be there in person.

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