Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung celebrated Mass with the business owners and workers from Kaeseong Industrial Region on July 21 at the chapel inside the Bishop’s House.
The Mass was offered to pray for the re-opening of Kaeseong Industrial Region which is facing a long-term closure from April this year due to the tension between North and South Korea. The Mass was concelebrated by Msgr. Choi Chang-hwa, the director of Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, and vice director, Fr. Cheong Sae-deuk. Around 50 members from ‘Rosario’— a community of the Catholics who work in Kaeseong Industrial Region—were invited to the mass with their families.
“The closure of Kaeseong Industrial Region caused different damages. However, I was told that the Rosario members never gave up hope and met every month to offer mass for the peace between North and South Korea. So I wanted to offer them my condolence and support.” Archbishop Yeom Soo-jung explained his purpose for the Mass.
During his homily, the Archbishop expressed his positive attitude towards the friendship and trust built between North and South Korean employees who worked together in Kaeseong Industrial Region. The Archbishop also spoke about his deep concerns and worries on the working-level talks between North and South Korea that had not yet reached any consensus. He pointed out that the re-opening of the region is not only for economic reasons but also “a symbol of the reconciliation and unification that needs to be realized through great effort and conversations.”
The ‘Rosario’ is made up of 40 members from 30 different companies. Because there is no religious freedom in Kaeseong Industrial Regions, Catholics who work there do not have the chance to attend Mass. Starting from 2008, the community began to form when Catholics met in the cafeteria and prayed Rosary together. After the regions was closed this year, the Rosario members gathered in Seoul on the third Sunday every month and offered mass.
The Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People is a Seoul Archdiocese-affiliated group that is responsible for the humanitarian assistance for North Korea and unification movements. “The Rosario members have directly interacted with the workers from North Korea,” said Fr. Cheong Sae-deuk, the vice director of Commission. “The members 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.”