Dharamshala: Samdhong Rinpoche, a former prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile, has arrived to South Korea to attend the World Fellowship of Buddhists conference in the southern city of Yeosu, in a rare visit by a leading Tibetan official.
Lobsang Tenzin,known to Tibetans as the 5th Samdhong Rinpoche, was the previous Prime Minister (officially Kalon Tripa, or Chairman of the Cabinet), of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based in Dharamshala.
This visit came as a surprise to many as the Seoul government has several times refused to grant a visa for the Dalai Lama himself, apparently out offear of offending China.
Organisers initially sought to invite the Dalai Lama but later ditched the plan out of consideration for China which promised to send some 100 delegates, said the spokeswoman.
"Now 16 Chinese delegates are to take part in the event... we are very nervous about how they would react," she said.
Rinpoche, the highest-ever Tibetan official to visit South Korea, will meet Buddhist delegates from other nations during what is planned as a low-profile trip, she told AFP.
"We nearly gave up hope until Friday when authorities suddenly said the visa would be granted... we were so surprised," she said, calling the visit a "precious opportunity" for more exchanges with Tibetan Buddhists.
The foreign ministry declined immediate comment on the visit.
About 400 delegates from some 30 countries will take part in the two-yearly event on the sidelines of the Expo 2012 Yeosu.
Expo 2012 Yeosu, Korea is an International Exposition held in Yeosu, South Korea which opened May 12, 2012 and will run for 93 days until August 2012. The theme of the Expo is the "Living Ocean and Coast", with a special focus on seeking the sustainable development and preservation of ocean resources.