South Korean cardinal visits North KoreaUpdated: 2014-05-21 12:01:52 (KST)
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung became the first Korean Roman Catholic leader to ever cross the inter-Korean border on Wednesday.
His day trip to the Kaesong Industrial Complex comes amid escalating tensions on the peninsula, although the South Korean government says the visit is in no way political.
"The objective of the the visit is to tour the joint factory zone and to meet with South Korean Catholics. There are no politically-motivated meetings scheduled."
It hasn't been confirmed whether Cardinal Yeom will hold mass at the Kaesong complex, but he has in the past been vocal about his desire to do so.
He had planned to hold mass at the joint industrial park last December, but that plan was scrapped at the last minute following the execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Song-thaek.
North Korea claims its people enjoy the right to religious freedom but authorities are known to crack down on religious activity, deeming it a challenge to the leadership.
The cardinal's trip comes three months before Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in South Korea for a visit, fueling speculation that the Holy Father could also make a stop in the North.
Pope Francis, who has shown a great deal of interest in peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas, is expected to deliver a message for the entire Korean peninsula when he visits Seoul in August.
For now, the attention is on whether Cardinal Yeom's trip will contribute to thawing inter-Korean relations.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.
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