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(2nd LD) Religious leaders, civic group officials visit N. Korea for new year event

North Korea 14:40 February 12, 2019

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; UPDATES first 2 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL/GOSEONG, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- A group of religious leaders, civic group officials and lawmakers travelled to North Korea on Tuesday to hold a joint new year event with their North Korean counterparts.

Buses carrying the delegation, composed of about 250 South Koreans, crossed the eastern inter-Korean border at around 11 a.m. to Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast for a two-day stay there.

(2nd LD) Religious leaders, civic group officials visit N. Korea for new year event - 1

They included leaders of South Korea's major religions, labor unions and civic groups representing women, youth and farming communities. Around 10 journalists were also among them.

During the two-day stay, they plan to hold a joint new year event and meetings with their North Korean counterparts. On the second day, they plan to watch the sunrise together and visit a temple.

They are expected to propose various cooperative projects, such as a temple stays, symposiums for educators and exchanges among students in sports and arts.

This marks the first joint civilian cross-border event this year.

Their trip to North Korea came about three months after officials of Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation visited Mount Kumgang in November for joint events to call for faithful implementation of inter-Korean summit agreements last year.

Journalists accompanying the delegation were not allowed to carry cameras, laptop computers and other equipment necessary for their reporting due to sanctions imposed on North Korea.

The latest case is raising controversy as sanctions are even hampering reporting on cross-border events. It also sparks a consistency issue as there have been previous cases where journalists were allowed to carry cameras and computers to cover exchanges and contacts across the border last year.

A unification ministry official told reporters that there was not enough time for consultations with the U.S. on a sanctions exemption on such devices. He added that the government will seek sanctions enforcement in a "consistent" manner.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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