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Kim Jong Un wants the Pope to visit North Korea, South Korean official says

South Korean President MOON JAE IN and North Korean Leader KIM JONG UN meet for their third summit Pyeongyang, North Korea,on September 18, 2018 in Pyeongyang, North Korea. (Ryu Seung-Il/ZUMA Wire/TNS)
October 09, 2018

After Kim Jong Un’s recent meetings with officials from the United States and South Korea, he now wants to meet with another global figure – the pope.

Kim is requesting that Pope Francis join him for a visit in Pyongyang, in a message that will be delivered to the pope from South Korean President Moon Jae-In when the two visit next week, according to a Fox News report on Tuesday.

“President Moon will visit the Vatican on Oct 17 and 18 to reaffirm its blessing and support for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told reporters, according to Channel News Asia. “Especially when he meets with Pope Francis, he will convey Chairman Kim’s message that he will ardently welcome him if he visits Pyongyang.”

At their meeting last month, Kim told Moon that North Korea would “enthusiastically” welcome the pope. It is the first invitation extended to the pope since Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il invited Pope John Paul II in 2000, although the visit never took place.

The Vatican confirmed Moon’s upcoming visit on Oct. 18, but did not remark on a potential visit to Pyongyang.

It’s unclear whether the visit will take place – or why Kim has requested it in the first place.

A pope has never visited North Korea.

North Korea is known to be atheist, and although their constitution officially permits religious activities as long as they are not publicly displayed or undermining the government, Christianity has been all but stamped out.

A United Nations report found that North Korea considers Christianity to be a “particularly serious threat” which “provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State,” the New York Times reported.  The report also noted that Christians are “subject to severe punishments” if found to be practicing.

A 2018 World Watch list created by Open Doors, a Christian group, ranked North Korea as the worst nation in the world for Christians.

“Christians are seen as hostile elements in society which have to be eradicated,” Open Doors’ report said. “Not only are they deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot, their families will share their fate as well.”

The news of the invitation comes on the heels of the latest meeting between Kim and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The meeting, which Pompeo called “very productive,” held a more positive atmosphere than the last meeting in July which left North Korean officials criticizing the “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization” made by the U.S.

North Korea has demonstrably changed their behavior by halting tests of missiles and nuclear weapons, releasing American prisoners, returning the remains of American soldiers who perished in the Korean War, and dismantling some of their missile and nuclear weapons facilities.