President Moon Jae-in is the fifth South Korean president to visit the Vatican, and the arrangements made for him have been called "unconventional."
"The Vatican's Prime Minister celebrating the mass himself, and allowing President Moon to come out and give a speech are very special courtesies I've never seen before. And even the Pope himself making time for President Moon at a busy time like this is uncommon."
Seong Youm served as South Korea's Ambassador to the Vatican from 2003 to 2007, and was President Moon Jae-in's special envoy to the Pope in May last year.
Seong says President Moon is being given such honors in view of the key role he's playing in realizing the Vatican's long-hoped-for solution to North Korea issues.
"Back when I was appointed ambassador, then-Pope John Paul the Second told me that the North Korea nuclear issue must be solved step-by-step, impartially and resolutely.
By 'impartially,' I think the Pope meant that this should be solved not by isolating the North through sanctions and security threats, but through peaceful negotiations, state-to-state. And along with that, the Vatican also urged countries not to stop humanitarian and food aid."
Pope Francis has stuck with that idea, and Seong believes this, among other reasons, might've helped the North open up to the Vatican.
"The North is going through tough times economically and may be thinking 'why hold on to nuclear weapons?'
They seem to want to open up to the world, be seen as a normal state and develop their economy. Having the Pope in North Korea would be a great chance to make that happen.
He's the leader of 1.3 billion Catholics around the world. Having him sit down with the North Korean leader and possibly show support, I think, will change how many countries view the regime."
With the controversy over the Pope's visit to the North, wouldn't he be hoping for some concrete promises and developments regarding either the North's human rights or freedom of religion?
"I think the Pope would get some sort of promise on that from the North before he went.
Plus, I don't think the North would've held all those summits with Seoul and Washington without considering these things.
And if you look at China, it was able to repair its ties with the Vatican and allow the formation of religious groups without its socialist system collapsing. So North Korea will likely find its own ways to slowly make changes under its existing system."
Seong said what is needed now is faith in the North, and that looking ahead, these positive movements will hopefully lead to the peaceful resolution of the North Korea nuclear issues and harmony on the Korean Peninsula.
Lee Ji-won, Arirang News.