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Buddhist group to organize regular monthly tours to Kaesong temple

Yonhap News, July 15, 2007

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has authorized regular monthly pilgrimages to a Buddhist temple in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, government officials said Sunday.

<< Ryongthong Temple in Kaesong, North Korea

The first regular visit to Ryongthong Temple organized by the Cheontae Order is to take place on July 26, with one 500-person pilgrimage to be allowed per month, the Ministry of Unification said.

Each trip to the temple, originally built in 11th century, will cost 170,000 won per person (US$185), with North Korea receiving $50 from each payment.

Cheontae, South Korea's second largest Buddhist group, arranged three pilot trips last month, which generated strong interest.

Ryongtong, considered the birthplace of the Korea's Cheontae Order, was burned down in the 16th century but was restored in 2005 with funding from South Korean Buddhists.

The ministry said the number of trips have been limited to one per month so as not to overlap with efforts by Hyundai Asan to organize trips to Kaesong. Hyundai's plans have made little headway because Pyongyang wants Lotte Tours Co. to arrange the Kaesong visits.

Kaesong, located just north of the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, and an hour's drive from Seoul, was the capital of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392 A.D.).

An industrial park on the outskirts of the North Korean city set up for South Korean businesses currently employee over 13,000 North Korean workers.

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