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S. Korea starts preparations for Pope's visit this month

Publication Date : 04-08-2014

 

A tight security cordon will be set up in downtown Seoul later this month when Pope Francis is scheduled to beatify more than 100 martyrs at a well-attended ceremony, police said Sunday.

The pope will recognise 124 martyrs at Gwanghwamun Square on Aug. 16 as “blessed” members of the Catholic Church ― part of a process also known as beatification.

Authorities will set up a 4,500-metre cordon around Gwanghwamun Square to strengthen security at the event. About 1 million are expected to attend the beatification. Gwanghwamun Square is also only 2 kilometres from Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office.

Police officers and volunteers will stand guard at intermittent gates along the barricade with metal detectors. Only about 200,000 preregistered Catholics and government authorities will be allowed inside the security wall.

The ceremony is a part of the pope’s five-day visit to South Korea. He arrives on August 14.

Pope Francis will meet President Park Geun-hye on his first day. He will also meet families of the victims of the April ferry disaster and former sex slaves of the Japanese military during World War II.

Police forces nationwide will be put on level-1 emergency alert throughout the pope’s visit.

Level-1 alerts are declared during emergencies or national events such as mass nationwide protests, presidential elections or visits by foreign dignitaries. It is the highest alert status for the national police. Only martial law is considered more serious.

This is the third papal visit to Korea in the past 30 years. Police will be on edge to not repeat a security fiasco from 1984 when the late Pope John Paul II visited Korea.

A college student surnamed Lee fired a toy gun at the pope’s convoy, sparking nearby police to fire warning shots at the 23-year-old. There were no casualties from the incident.

 

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