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U.S. pastor Graham meets with N. Korean foreign minister: report

All Headlines 18:25 October 14, 2009

By Tony Chang

SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. pastor visiting North Korea on a humanitarian mission met the country's foreign minister Wednesday, the North's state media reported, raising speculation that the impoverished country may seek outside private aid for relief from international sanctions.

Franklin Graham, the son of veteran Christian evangelist Billy Graham, paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, where the two shared "a friendly conversation," said a brief report from the North's Korean Central News Agency monitored in Seoul.

The North's media reported Tuesday that Graham, head of Samaritan's Purse, and his entourage came by a private jet. Graham was quoted as saying they were visiting the North to "play the role of a bridge for better relations between the U.S. and (North) Korea."

Last week, Graham said on his Web site that he would meet high-level government officials and follow up on humanitarian assistance projects operated by his organization in the North.

"I believe it is important to make visits like this to help improve better relations and to have better understanding with each other," Graham said of his third visit to North Korea.

The World Food Program has said North Korea will need more than 800,000 tons of food aid from abroad to feed its 24 million people this year.

Graham will also visit a provincial hospital, where a generator system installed with the help of Samaritan's Purse is now providing electrical power, the Web site said. His organization has provided medical and dental aid to the North since 1997.

The Graham family has personal ties with the North. The father visited the North in 1992 and 1994, and met with the country's then leader, Kim Il-sung. His mother, Ruth Graham, attended a mission school in Pyongyang in 1934.

Following his visit to Pyongyang, Graham will travel to China, where his organization sent emergency supplies to victims of a deadly earthquake last year.

odissy@yna.co.kr
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