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S. Korean Catholic priests make 1st visit to N.K. in 7 years

2015/10/27 09:11

SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- A progressive group of South Korean Catholic priests will return home Tuesday, wrapping up their first visit to North Korea in seven years for a special Mass, government officials said.

A 12-member delegation of the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice (CPAJ) flew into Pyongyang on Friday 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 marked the first since September 2008, when the group traveled to the North to hold a similar special Mass. The North's association on Catholics invited the group to Pyongyang.

The CPAJ, critical of the conservative government, actively speaks up on social and political issues.

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.

"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," a government official said.

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.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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