Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Chance of Pope's Visit to North Korea

The present government administration, is nearing the end of its term, and is very much for a visit of Pope Francis to North Korea. On July 6th the head of the intelligence agency attended a Mass at the cathedral and said: "The government is pushing for the Pope's visit to North Korea."The government has been silent on the  progress since then. So begins the peace column by the press director of the Catholic Peace Weekly.

Discussions about the Pope’s visit to North Korea began three years ago, in October 2018, after President Moon delivered an invitation to the Pope to visit North Korea from Kim Jong-un. At that time, the Vatican and North Korea operated a communication channel for the 'Pope's visit'. San Egidio, (a lay Catholic association dedicated to social service),
visited Pyongyang, and a North Korean diplomat attended a San Egidio event in Rome. Italy has diplomatic ties, with North Korea and North Korea will be sending representatives to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.
Was it because of this movement? In January 2019, the Pope said, "There is a positive signal coming from the Korean Peninsula." However, the Pope's visit to North Korea was canceled as the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi ended in failure in February of that year. However, with the establishment of the Joe Biden administration in the United States in January this year, the hope for the Pope's visit to North Korea revived. Unlike the former Trump administration, the Biden administration's policy toward North Korea is quite flexible and dynamic. It is summarized as strict reciprocity.  President Moon said on several tours to the U.S. and Europe in May and June, "The day of the Pope's visit to North Korea will come soon."
Pope Francis has already made a decision to visit North Korea. In a Mass commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Kim Dae-gun, Andrew,  on August 21, Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik the first Korean to be appointed to the Roman Curia, he
assumed the position of Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy on August 2, this year. He has made known that the Pope twice emphasized: "I hope I can go to North Korea." In the meantime, he also delivered the Pope's message, "I hope you prepare well."
Earlier on August 16, Unification Minister said in a congratulatory speech for the video of "Inter-Korean Peace Day" to mark the 200th anniversary, "I hope the Pope's visit to North Korea will take place soon." In the meantime, if the visit to North Korea is made, he stressed, "A blessed seed of peace will be planted in the North Korean land, reconciliation to the global community, and a message of true life will be delivered."

In September and October, international meetings will be held, which could be important turning points for the Pope's visit to North Korea. First of all, the 17th is the 30th anniversary of the two Koreas joining the United Nations. Also, the 19th is the 3rd anniversary of the September 19 Pyongyang Joint Declaration. At that time, the leaders of the two Koreas expressed their willingness to turn the Korean Peninsula into a peace base without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats in Pyongyang. The next day, the 20th, is the very day when the leaders of the two Koreas climbed  Baekdusan Mountain three years ago and promised to "invite the Pope to visit North Korea." The 76th UN General Assembly will begin discussion on the 21st. In addition, the leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and the Pope will meet at the G20 summit in Rome at the end of October to discuss peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Now, the key to the "visit to North Korea" depends on North Korea. It is "North Korea's Invitation." Fortunately, North Korea, which cut off the inter-Korean communication line criticizing the ROK-US joint training, has not issued a hard-line message to South Korea and the U.S. after the training. 
The Pope's visit to Pyongyang will be a golden opportunity for North Korea to return as a member of the international community and receive support at a time when U.S.-led economic sanctions against North Korea and the COVID-19 pandemic continue. All the Pope's actions go beyond ideology, politics, and even religion. They are present unconditionally wherever there is poverty, discrimination, and conflict. Although it is a silent North Korean church, as long as there are brothers and sisters who share the faith in the North, the Pope will go there in search of a stray sheep. The South is urging Chairman Kim Jong-un to make a decision.

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