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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 12)

2018/10/12 07:09

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Hope for pope's visit

Moon to deliver Kim's intent to invite Catholic leader

President Moon Jae-in will embark on a tour of France, Italy, Belgium and Denmark, Friday, returning Oct. 21. The main purpose of the visit is to raise understanding among key members of the European Union of Moon's diplomatic goal of establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula and to thank them for their support.

The highlight of the tour will be his meeting with Pope Francis on Oct. 18 as he will relay North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's intention to invite the pope to Pyongyang. Moon made the suggestion to Kim during the third inter-Korean summit last month in Pyongyang. Kim reportedly told Moon he would "wholeheartedly welcome the pope if he visits Pyongyang."

   It is too early to get excited about the visit because Pyongyang has yet to send an official invitation. All eyes will be on how the pope will respond. Kim's invitation seems to be part of his efforts to engage in active international diplomacy. The formerly reclusive leader was in the global spotlight during his multiple visits to China this year for meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and his Singapore summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June.

It is uncertain whether the visit will actually take place. The Kim Dae-jung administration made a similar suggestion in 2000, but this was not realized. But it may be different this time because Pope Francis has shown keen attention to the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Before the April 27 inter-Korean summit at the border village of Panmunjeom, the pope prayed for fruitful inter-Korean peace talks during Easter Mass, April 1. He also had special prayers for the peninsula after the June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit. The Vatican will hold a mass for peace on the peninsula Oct. 17 with President Moon in attendance.

It was too hasty of Moon to speak about it before any official word from North Korea, but there are two good reasons for a papal visit. First, if Pope Francis visits North Korea, it will greatly contribute to boosting international support for peace negotiations between the two Koreas. Many remember that he played a visible role in the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Second, a papal visit will renew global attention to human rights issues in North Korea, which must be improved if it wants to be recognized as a normal state. We hope that Pope Francis, who made a deep impression among South Koreans during his visit to the country in 2014, will visit Pyongyang soon.

(END)

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