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North Korean Envoys to Meet Seoul's President


South Korea's Unification Ministry says President Lee Myung-bak has agreed to meet Sunday with senior North Korean officials who traveled to Seoul to mourn the late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

Yonhap news agency reports the visitors from Pyongyang said they have a message for President Lee from their leader, Kim Jong Il.

Seoul's unification minister, Hyun In-taek, met on Saturday with his counterpart from the North Korean delegation, Kim Yang Gon.

The six officials from Pyongyang are extending their stay in Seoul by a day for the meeting with President Lee, which they requested.

The North Koreans arrived in Seoul Friday to pay their respects to the family of Mr. Kim, who worked to improve relations between the two Koreas. The Nobel Peace Prize winner died Tuesday.

The North Koreans' condolence visit was a first in the two states' relations, as well as the first time in nearly two years that officials from the communist north have traveled to South Korea.

The meeting on Sunday could ease tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang, which have been at odds since President Lee took over a year and a half ago. Unlike the late President Kim, Mr. Lee insisted that North Korea must demonstrate verifiable progress toward nuclear disarmament in return for continued aid from the south.

On Friday, the visiting North Koreans bowed their heads and laid a wreath in front of a large portrait of Mr. Kim in South Korea's parliament building.

President Kim was revered by many on both sides of the Korean peninsula for his efforts to reconcile the two states, which included a landmark summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Il in 2000. Some South Koreans opposed opening up relations with North Korea, however, because of North Korea's massive human-rights violations and Pyongyang's notorious efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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