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200,000 Endure Long Lines, Cold to See Late Cardinal

Posted February. 19, 2009 08:17,   


Tens of thousands of people yesterday visited Myongdong Cathedral to pay their final respects to the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, braving the sub-zero temperature and staggeringly long lines.

As countless mourners streamed into downtown Seoul, people had to wait for more than three hours in a line stretching up to two kilometers, but most looked just peaceful and happy.

“There are many people but no one has tried to cut in the line. I believe Cardinal Kim dreamt of such a peaceful world,” said Moon Yeong-yi, who stood in a line in front of the Sejong Hotel.

She seemed surprised by the long lines.

A whopping 200,000 people from all walks of life have visited the cathedral over the past two days with a calm look.

Instead of trying to cut in line, quarrel and shout in crowded places, most of the mourners behaved well. Some even allowed senior citizens to go first.

Police were also on guard nearby the lines to maintain order, but had little to do except for answering questions and controlling traffic.

The cathedral’s rector Monsignor Park Shin-eon was impressed with the orderliness, saying, “The mourners in the orderly line are really beautiful.”

After paying their respects to Kim, many also visited a nearby booth set up by the Korean Organ and Tissue Donor Program.

The program’s PR director Hwang Ji-in said, “Usually, only few people visit our temporary booths on the street. But around 100 visited this booth today.”

Kim had few material possessions, and instead left behind a spiritual legacy of love, concessions and sacrifice.

According to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul, Kim received 2.5 million won (1,709 U.S. dollars) as a monthly pension like other priests. The late cardinal, however, asked his assistant to manage his money, an amount which has reached 10 million won (6,853 dollars).

A source at the archdiocese said, “Kim used to buy Bibles, rosaries and crosses and give them to others at Christmas and other holidays. Some of the presents have yet to be paid for. His account might not be enough to cover the bills.”

alwaysj@donga.com ryu@donga.com