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Buddhists go to Kumgang with tablets

Yonhap, May 5, 2011

Seoul, South Korea -- A 10-member delegation of South Korea’s largest Buddhist sect crossed the heavily fortified border into North Korea yesterday to deliver aid to the impoverished country, an official said.

The Jogye Order delegation was heading to North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort to deliver 100,000 tablets of vermifuge, a medicine used to destroy intestinal worms, said Lee Jong-joo, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Unification.

The Buddhist officials also plan to tour a temple on the mountain before returning home later in the day, the official of the Jogye Order said, asking not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Jogye Order had planned to hold a joint service at Singye Temple with its North Korean counterpart, but it canceled the plan after the government disapproved.

For a decade, the North’s mountain resort had been a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation and was an attraction for South Korean tourists.

But Seoul suspended the joint tour program in 2008 when a female South Korean tourist was shot dead after straying into an off-limits military zone near the resort.

The one-day trip by Buddhist officials comes amid lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the North’s two deadly attacks on the South last year, which killed 50 South Koreans, including two civilians on Yeonpyeong Island.

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