North Korea permits first Russian Orthodox church

Published: 08/13/2006 2:22:53pm


Seoul- The first Russian Orthodox church in communist North
Korea was opened in the capital Pyongyang Sunday, the official KCNA
news agency reported.
It was expected that the opening of the church would contribute to
the development of Russian-North Korean relations, Korean Orthodox
Church Committee Chairman Ho Il Jin was quoted as saying.

The North Korean government would "successfully administer" the
church, Ho said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is believed to have given the
order for the church to be built after a trip to Russia four years
ago, KCNA said in a report carried by South Korea's Yonhap news

The church, which can hold a congregation of 500, is designed to
give Russian Orthodox believers the chance to go to church when they
are visiting Pyongyang.

North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Kwak Pom Gi and Russian
Ambassador Andrei Karlov were present at the church's opening.

The founding of the first Orthodox church in North Korea does not
indicate that the country is taking steps towards facilitating the
practice of religion, Yonhap reported.

Free exercise of religion is guaranteed in the North Korean
constitution, but in practice there is virtually no religious

Defectors and human-rights organizations have reported the
persecution of practising Christians in the isolated country.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur