South Korea is allowing a delegation of Buddhist monks to take part in a religious ceremony in North Korea, the first trip of its kind since Seoul accused Pyongyang of sinking one of its warships last year.
The 37-member delegation will embark Saturday on a five-day trip to North Korea, where the group will participate in a service at a North Korean temple marking the 1,000th anniversary of the creation of a Buddhist relic respected in both countries.
South Korea's unification ministry, which controls all cross-border contacts, says the trip was allowed because it is “purely religious” in nature.
South Korea has restricted travel to the North since March 2010, when it blamed the communist country for a torpedo attack on a navy ship that killed 56 South Koreans.
Seoul has demanded an apology, but Pyongyang denies responsibility for the ship sinking, saying the South's army provoked the artillery attack.
The news comes just days after South Korea appointed a new unification minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle.
Yu Woo-ik said Wednesday that he will seek ways to be flexible in his dealings with Pyongyang. He said he will maintain the government's existing policies, but that he will look for ways to achieve substantial development in ties with the North.