News / Asia

South Korean Buddhist Monks, US Aid Arrive in North Korea

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North Korea has opened its borders for goodwill gestures from South Korea and the United States.

South Korean monks arrived in Pyongyang Saturday to help celebrate the creation of a religious relic important to Buddhists on both sides of the demilitarized zone.

The 37 South Korean monks arrived by plane and were greeted at the airport by their North Korean brethren.  

The monks are scheduled to participate in a service at a North Korean temple marking the 1,000th anniversary of the relic's creation.

Late Saturday, a second plane landed in Pyongyang carrying medicine, blankets and other relief supplies paid for by the U.S. State department.

The U.S. had pledged $900,000 in aid for flood-stricken North Korea, to be delivered by non-governmental agencies.

The U.S.-based aid group Samaritan's Purse also sent food and other supplies.

An official with Samaritan's Purse, Melvin Cheatham, said the aid shipment is an "expression of the love and concern of the American people."

He said it was the third time the charity has chartered a flight to bring relief supplies to North Korea.

The earlier arrival of the Buddhist monks was the first visit of its kind since Seoul accused Pyongyang of sinking one of its warships last year.

South Korea's unification ministry, which controls all cross-border contacts, said it allowed the trip because it is purely religious in nature.

South Korea has restricted travel to the North since March 2010, when it blamed the communist country for a torpedo attack on a navy ship that killed 46 South Koreans.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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