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Religion | IN BRIEF

N. Korea OKs Church for Russian Orthodox

June 28, 2003|From Times Wire Reports

Responding to a personal invitation from dictator Kim Jong Il, Russian Orthodox Church leaders broke ground this week for the first Orthodox church in North Korea, a country with one of the world's worst religious freedom records.

"It was Kim Jong Il's idea. When he was in the [Russian] Far East last year and visited one of our churches, he liked it. He said, 'I'd like one of those too,' " said Valentin Radayev, a specialist on Asia in the Russian Orthodox Church's department for external church relations.

The Church of the Holy Trinity, to be located on a river bank in eastern Pyongyang, will be finished within 12 months' time and feature two distinctive onion domes, Radayev said.

"[North] Korea is paying," he added. "We don't know who exactly, but they are paying."

According to North Korean officials, the Union of Orthodox Believers in Korea is overseeing the project, reported the Russian state news agency, Itar-Tass. Aside from an estimated 130 Russian citizens in Pyongyang, it is not clear what other residents might be Orthodox.

When the Church of the Holy Trinity is completed some time next year, it will become the fourth Christian house of worship in the North Korean capital, which has one Roman Catholic and two Protestant sanctuaries.

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