Seoul (AsiaNews) - The reopening of the inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong "is not only an economic necessity, but it is also a symbol of reconciliation and unification to be achieved through dialogue and with great effort," said yesterday Mgr Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul, during a Mass celebrated at the Archbishop's Residence in the presence of business leaders and workers from the complex that "unites" Seoul and Pyongyang.
The Kaesong industrial complex is located in North Korean territory (right across the border), but is home to factories owned by South Koreans who employ workers from the North. It is the only example of direct cooperation between the two nations, which began in 2002 after major diplomatic efforts. Last April, after months of tensions and provocations, the Pyongyang regime closed it unilaterally. Today a fifth round of talks began between the two nations on reopening it.
The Mass was celebrated to pray for re-opening. Mgr Choi Chang-hwa, director of the Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean people, and his deputy, Fr Cheong Sae-duk, co-celebrated the service with the archbishop.
"The closure of the complex has caused a lot of damages. Nevertheless, I want to emphasise that we should not lose hope and must continue to pray for peace between North and South," Mgr Yeom said in his homily.
The fact that inter-Korean talks appear unlikely to produce results "is cause for deep concern. Reopening is not only needed for economic reasons; it would be a symbol of reconciliation and unification to be achieved through dialogue and efforts by both parties."
Among the worshippers, about 50 are members of the 'Rosario', a community of Catholics working in Kaesong.
In the area, the North does not allow religious freedom. However, the group, founded in 2008, has met informally over the years to pray the Angelus together in factory cafeterias. Since the closure of Kaesong, the members have met in Seoul to attend Mass together.
"Rosario members have interacted directly with workers in the North," said Fr Cheong Sae-deuk, deputy director of the Commission in charge of humanitarian assistance to the North.
"The members," he noted, "believe and treat the North Korean people like their own brothers. We earnestly hope that Kaeseong Industrial Region will re-open so that we can work with our brothers again."
(Stephany Sun, from the Archdiocesan Secretariat, contributed to the article)