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S. Korea OKs religious group's trip to N. Korea

The South Korean government on Wednesday approved a planned trip to North Korea by dozens of religious group members for a joint event later in the week, reaffirming its support for non-political exchanges with the communist neighbor. 

A total of 36 South Korean civilians plan to visit Pyongyang to attend a ceremony to mark National Foundation Day, which falls on Oct. 3.

They are followers of the Cheondogyo indigenous religion and members of the Dangun National Peace and Unification Council, an association of civic and religious groups related to the Dangun founding myth of ancient Korea.

The group will arrive in Pyongyang via Beijing on Thursday for a five-day stay, according to the unification ministry.

"The unification ministry has consented to their application for a trip to North Korea," the ministry's deputy spokeswoman, Park Soo-jin, said at a press briefing.

The decision is in line with the government's policy of allowing inter-Korean exchanges in non-political fields, she added.

Religious groups from the two Koreas jointly marked the National Foundation Day from 2002 to 2005. Such an event has not taken place since then amid sharp military tensions on the peninsula.

Last year, Seoul did not allow a trip by the Dangun council's delegation to the North after Pyongyang unilaterally postponed a family reunion event(Yonhap).
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