SEOUL (SE): In the midst of the ongoing standoff between the two republics that make up the Korean Peninsula over the closure of Kaeseong Industrial Zone, Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung celebrated a consolation Mass in Seoul on July 21 for a group of Catholic people who had been working in the enclosed estate in North Korea, who call themselves the Rosario Group.
People at the Mass prayed for peace between the two Koreas, as well as for the reopening of the estate, which has been shut down since April due to the latest clashes between Seoul and Pyongyang.
They called it a living example that people from both sides of the Demilitarised Zone can cooperate, work and live together in a constructive and peaceable way.
Their prayers were finally answered when Pyongyang announced in early August that it would agree to reopen the zone, after Seoul took steps towards finalising its commitment to the industrial complex.
Bishop Choi Chang-hwa, the director of the Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, and its vice director, Father Cheong Sae-deuk, joined the archbishop at the Mass, which was attended by around 40 members of the Rosario Group and their families.
A press release from Archbishop Yeom’s office in Seoul says, “The closure of Kaeseong Industrial Region caused a wide variety of damage. However, I was told that the Rosario members never gave up hope and meet every month to offer a Mass for peace between North and South Korea. So I wanted to offer them my condolences and support.”
The archbishop expressed his positive attitude towards the friendship and trust built between North and South Korean employees who work together in Kaeseong. He also spoke about his deep concern and worry about the working-level talks between North and South Korea that had yet to reach a consensus at that time.
Archbishop Yoem pointed out that the re-opening of the region would be good not only for economic reasons, but also as a symbol of the reconciliation and unification that needs to be realised through great effort and conversation between people from both sides of the Demilitarised Zone.
The Rosario Group is made up of over 40 people from 30 different companies. Because there is no religious freedom in the Kaeseong Industrial Region, Catholics who work there do not have the chance to attend Mass.
However, beginning in 2008, the community began to form when Catholic people started meeting in the cafeteria and praying the rosary together.
When the region was closed this year, the group began gathering in Seoul on the third Sunday of every month to offer a Mass for peace.
The Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People is a Seoul archdiocese-affiliated body responsible for humanitarian assistance to North Korea and the coordination of unification movements in South Korea.
“The Rosario members have directly interacted with the workers from North Korea,” Father Cheong Sae-deuk, the vice director of commission, noted. “They believe in and treat the North Korean people like their own brothers. We earnestly hope that Kaeseong Industrial Zone will re-open, so that we can work with our brothers again.”