The Olympic Torch has made its first-ever relay through North Korea in a parade free of protests, following a raucous reception in the South Korean capital of Seoul Sunday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was not in attendance at the ceremony Monday. Parliament chief Kim Young Nam passed the torch to the first relay runner, Pak Du Ik, who played on the 1966 North Korean World Cup soccer team.

Tens of thousands of people cheered and stood peacefully along the 20-kilometer route, as they watched 80 athletes carrying the torch.

The torch relay has sparked protests in many major cities along the worldwide route over Beijing's human rights record and its crackdown on recent unrest in Tibet and other Tibetan regions in China.

During Sunday's relay in South Korea, human rights groups protested China's deportation of North Korean refugees, who face stiff punishment or execution for fleeing the North. They were overwhelmed by thousands of Chinese students who threw stones, bottles and other objects at the protesters.

South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon today sent a message to Chinese Ambassador Ning Fukui, expressing his government's "strong regret" over the acts of some of the Chinese students. Ning later told reporters in Seoul that the Chinese have good feelings for South Koreans.

The torch relay began March 24 in Greece and will end August 8 at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.

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