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North Korean Leader To Visit South, Says Legislator - 2002-05-14

A South Korean legislator who just visited North Korea said Northern leader Kim Jong Il intends to visit the South, although he did not set a date.

Park Geun-hye said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told her he will travel to South Korea at an appropriate time. He has made similar statements to other visiting foreign officials but has never said when he intends to go.

At the two Koreas' historic summit two years ago in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il pledged to visit Seoul for a second summit with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. President Kim's five-year term ends in February.

But inter-Korean relations have declined since then, because of tensions between North Korea and the United States, a key ally of South Korea. North Korea is an isolated, hard-line communist state, while South Korea is a capitalist democracy. They have been separated since the late 1940s.

Ms. Park is an independent lawmaker who recently left the country's main opposition party. She has started an independent political movement and may run for president in South Korea's elections later this year. She is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, a former South Korean military ruler who was a staunch anti-communist. He ruled the South for 18 years until he was assassinated.

Ms. Park said that she supports engagement with North Korea, which has been a key policy of President Kim Dae-jung.

Her visit to the North took place as 10 North Korean asylum seekers sought refuge in foreign embassies and consulates in neighboring China. Three defectors who entered a U.S. consulate in Shenyang, China arrived in Seoul Tuesday. Thousands of North Koreans have crossed into China in the past few years to escape famine and repression at home.