Pope Calls on Int'l Society to Help Relieve Suffering of N.Koreans

Article excerpt

Pope John Paul II called upon the international community to show generosity in helping relieve the suffering of North Koreans during the audience given to visiting South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

During a meeting with Kim in his office at the Vatican Saturday (local time), the Pontiff highly praised Seoul's fresh initiative to foster inter-Korean dialogue.

``Certainly, the path of reconciliation will be long and difficult. Yet, despite the obstacles you have not allowed yourself to become discouraged in your endeavors to establish a climate of good and harmonious relations,'' the Pope was quoted as saying.

The Pope said, ``President Kim has shown his commitment in a practical way by coming to the assistance of the many North Koreans who have been severely affected by natural calamities and poor harvests, and whose tragic plight is known to us all.

``I encourage the efforts that President Kim has been endeavored to respond to their needs at this difficult time and I take this opportunity to call upon the international community to continue to show generosity in helping relieve the suffering of the North Korean victims,'' the Pope was quoted as saying.

Pope John Paul made the remarks after President Kim explained about his engagement policy toward the North.

``Since I took the oath of office, I have been steadily pushing an engagement policy toward North Korea with the all-out support of the international community. As a result, clear signs are emerging that inter-Korean relations are improving, including an increase in interaction on the private level, such as tours of Mt. Kumgang,'' Kim said.

According to Chong Wa Dae spokesman Park Joon-young, President Kim told the Pope that South Korea will continue to send humanitarian aid to help North Koreans who are suffering from hunger and disease. ``We will also push diverse forms of exchange and cooperation that could be beneficial both to South and North Korea,'' Kim said.

During the meeting, Kim took note that the Pope has visited Korea twice and stressed that Korean Catholic churches have played a crucial role in the pro-democracy struggle and promoting human rights under past authoritarian regimes in Korea, the spokesman said.

The Pope also expressed his sympathy with Koreans who ``had to respond to the social and economic challenges arising from the Asian financial crisis. …