South Korean priests wrap up North Korea visit

Seoul, Oct 27 (IANS) A group of South Korean Catholic priests will return on Tuesday, wrapping up their first visit to North Korea in seven years for a special Mass, officials said.

A 12-member delegation of the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice (CPAJ) arrived in Pyongyang on October 23 from Beijing for a five-day stay in the North to attend a Mass for inter-Korean reunification, according to officials from the unification ministry.

The visit was the first since September 2008, when the group travelled to the North to hold a similar special Mass, The Korea Herald reported.

The move may herald more visits to North Korea by South Korean civic and other non-government groups as Seoul is seeking to spur such civilian inter-Korean exchanges this year, a government official said.

“The government approved the group’s visit to the North on the ground that it was related to non-political religious exchanges between the two Koreas,” the official added.

The government rejected the CPAJ’s previous request to visit North Korea for a joint service with a group of Buddhists in 2009.

It also did not allow the group to attend a memorial service for former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December 2011.

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