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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 20)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 09:52 October 20, 2018

Pope and NK
Catholic leader shows interest in visiting Pyongyang

President Moon Jae-in's visit to the Vatican, the highlight of his nine-day European tour that began in France earlier this week, concluded Thursday with some impressive results.

Moon's visit to the Vatican started with a unique mass at the St. Peter's Basilica for peace on the Korean Peninsula, which was introduced in Korean. After the mass, Moon spoke to the congregation for about 10 minutes, which was also out of the ordinary.

During the speech, Moon recounted the amazing developments on the peninsula this year owing to his peace initiative and thanked the Pope Francis for his staunch support. "The U.S. and North Korea sat down together to end 70 years of hostility," Moon said. "As his holiness prayed ahead of the U.S.-North Korea summit, we are paving the way for the future of peace on the peninsula and around the world."

The Vatican visit drew keen attention because Moon was expected to relay North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's intention to invite the Catholic leader to Pyongyang. During an inter-Korean summit in the North Korean capital last month, Kim reportedly told Moon that he would wholeheartedly welcome a visit by the pope.

Many Koreans have been wondering how the pope would react to the invitation. During his audience with Moon, he reportedly said he would be "available" to travel to Pyongyang. If realized, it will be the first time for the head of the Catholic Church to visit North Korea, which is notorious for its religious oppression.

Pope Francis spent 55 minutes talking with Moon, which is much longer than the 30 minutes he spent with U.S. President Donald Trump last year. This reflects his special interest in Korea, which has been evident since the beginning of his papacy in 2013. He launched his first Asian tour in Korea in August 2014, travelling to various parts of the country.

If an official invitation arrives and the pope accepts, the visit is likely take place during his tour of East Asia early next year. Pope Francis has expressed his wish to visit Japan, and China has also invited him.

It is too early to get excited because there will be many hurdles to overcome before the visit is realized. The pope's visit to Pyongyang would be a great blessing for the peninsula. But for the peace-making efforts to bear fruit, North Korea must fully commit to the denuclearization process.
(END)

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