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Kim invites Pope North via Moon

Oct 10,2018
President Moon Jae-in will invite Pope Francis to Pyongyang on behalf of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the presidential office said Tuesday.

Kim Eui-kyeom, the Blue House spokesman, said Moon will deliver North Korean leader Kim’s wish to invite the leader of the Catholic Church to Pyongyang during his visit to the Vatican on Oct. 17 and 18. Moon will kick off a nine-day trip to Europe on Saturday.

“President Moon will have an official visit to the Vatican from Oct. 17 to 18 to reaffirm [Pope Francis’] blessing for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and hold discussions for future cooperation,” said Kim. “When President Moon meets Pope Francis he will deliver a message from North Korean leader Kim that he would wholeheartedly welcome the pope if he made the visit to Pyongyang.”

Such a visit would be historic occasion for the Communist state. The regime has a long record of suppressing religious activity as it promotes the veneration of the Kim dynasty.

The spokesman said that Moon first floated the idea of extending an invitation to Pope Francis to Kim Jong-un during his time in Pyongyang last month for his third summit with the North Korean leader.

“Moon first made the suggestion to North Korean leader Kim,” said the spokesman.

“Pope Francis is deeply interested in realizing peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. What do you think about meeting with Pope Francis?” Moon was quoted as saying by his spokesman. Kim Jong-un replied that he would “wholeheartedly welcome” the pope should he come to the North Korean capital.

Moon’s European trip includes stops in Paris, Rome, Brussels and Copenhagen. It wraps up on Oct. 21.

While specific details of his schedule have yet to be made public, the Blue House said Moon will seek to deepen Korea’s diplomatic and security partnerships with France during his time in Paris. The focus of his trip to Italy is enhancing cooperation to find new industrial growth momentum, as Italy has cutting-edge science technology and industrial capability, the Blue House said.

Moon will fly to Brussels on Oct. 18 on a two-day trip to attend the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit. He then will visit Denmark for the final leg of the trip to attend the first global P4G Summit. The event seeks to work toward green growth and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It aims to find ways to fuel sustainable growth through innovative partnerships among heads of states and leaders of international organizations.

Kim said that the government was hoping to “win international support for a new order” that Moon said Monday was in the making in Northeast Asia. Moon said that through such a new order, which would set in place a permanent peace regime and the denuclearization of the peninsula, the last remnant of the Cold War could be removed.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]