Buddhist Monks Arrive in North Korea

Posted September 3rd, 2011 at 11:35 am (UTC-5)
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South Korean monks are in Pyongyang to help celebrate the creation of a religious relic important to Buddhists on both sides of the demilitarized zone.

The 37 South Korean monks arrived by plane Saturday, greeted at the airport by their North Korean brethren.

The monks are scheduled to participate in a service at a North Korean temple marking the 1,000th anniversary of the relic's creation.

The visit is the first of its kind since Seoul accused Pyongyang of sinking one of its warships last year.

South Korea's unification ministry, which controls all cross-border contacts, said it allowed the trip 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 46 South Koreans.

Seoul has demanded an apology, but Pyongyang denies responsibility for sinking the ship, saying the South's army provoked an artillery attack.

The visit 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.