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North Korean refugees enjoy Youth Day

Four invited, two had to decline, two more become first from rogue state to visit WYD

Korean Catholics who participated in World Youth Day Korean Catholics who participated in World Youth Day
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • August 22, 2011
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The Vatican invited four former North Korean refugees now settled in South Korea to participate in World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations in Madrid, the culture and communications department of Seoul Archdiocese revealed today.

Two of them went to Spain for the event, which finished yesterday, as part of the delegation from Seoul Archdiocese while the other two were unable to travel for “personal reasons”, the Church body said.

This was believed to be the first time any North Korean refugee had joined the WYD event, which began 26 years ago.

Some 1,300 South Korean participants included Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon, president of the Korean bishops' committee for youth ministry, and some 200 priests and Religious.

The archdiocese said Clara Sim and Michaella Han (both pseudonyms) joined the youth gathering.

Clara Sim, 20, is a university student majoring in social welfare. She came to South Korea in 2008. Michaella Han is also studying business administration at a university after arriving last year.

Michaella Han said she learned “how to pray during the world youth gathering and got self-confidence.”

Usually, North Korean refugees use pseudonyms when when faced with the media as they worry about possible persecution by the North Korean government against relatives remaining there.

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