Ex-SK 1st lady re­turns from North

The China Post - - ASIA -

The 92-year-old widow of for­mer South Korean Pres­i­dent Kim Dae-jung re­turned to Seoul on Satur­day af­ter a four-day visit to North Korea that ended with­out a meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Lee Hee-ho told re­porters that she wasn’t car­ry­ing out any of­fi­cial duty on be­half of South Korea dur­ing her trip. A mem­ber of Lee’s del­e­ga­tion con­firmed there was no con­tact from Kim Jong Un dur­ing her stay in North Korea.

Her itin­er­ary re­leased to the media in­cluded vis­its to a ma­ter­nity clinic, or­phan­age and chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal, but not any for­mal meet­ings with se­nior North Korean of­fi­cials. Some an­a­lysts had spec­u­lated there could be a chance Kim Jong Un might meet her or try to send a mes­sage to Seoul through her.

Lee de­scribed meet­ing chil­dren at fa­cil­i­ties in Py­ongyang as an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence that re­in­forced her be­liefs that the Koreas “must not pass the pain of di­vi­sion to the next gen­er­a­tion.”

Re­la­tions be­tween the ri­val Koreas have been testy fol­low­ing the re­cent open­ing of a U.N. of­fice in Seoul tasked with mon­i­tor­ing North Korea’s hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion and the North’s re­fusal to re­lease sev­eral South Kore­ans de­tained there.

Kim Dae-jung, who died in 2009, backed a pol­icy of rap­proche­ment with Py­ongyang and held a land­mark sum­mit with Kim Jong Un’s fa­ther and late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000. He won the No­bel Peace Prize later in 2000 for his ef­forts.

The sum­mit talks spawned a flurry of co­op­er­a­tion projects, but most of them have been put on hold since con­ser­va­tives took power in Seoul in 2008, and ended big aid ship­ments to North Korea.

North Korea is par­tic­u­larly keen on re­open­ing the coun­try to South Korean tourists, along with pur­su­ing busi­ness and in­vest­ment deals with its more af­flu­ent south­ern neigh­bor.

Last year, Kim Jong Un in­vited Lee to visit af­ter thank­ing her for send­ing con­do­lence flow­ers on the third an­niver­sary of the death of his fa­ther. Kim Jong Un and Lee briefly met in De­cem­ber 2011, when Lee vis­ited North Korea to at­tend the fu­neral of Kim Jong Il.

AP

Lee Hee-ho, the widow of for­mer South Korean Pres­i­dent and No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate Kim Dae-jung, is es­corted af­ter speak­ing to the media at Gimpo In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Seoul af­ter re­turn­ing from North Korea, Satur­day, Aug. 8. Lee re­turned to Seoul af­ter a four-day visit to North Korea that ap­par­ently ended with­out a meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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