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Former S. Korean First Lady Visits Pyongyang

  • VOA News

Lee Hee-ho, center, the wife of late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, waves as she arrives at Gimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea, to leave for North Korea Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015.

Lee Hee-ho, center, the wife of late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, waves as she arrives at Gimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea, to leave for North Korea Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015.

The widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung is making a rare visit to North Korea to help improve chronically strained relations between the two longtime foes.

Lee Hee-ho and her 18-member delegation arrived Wednesday in Pyongyang for the four-day visit, which has not been officially sanctioned by the South Korean government.

The 92-year-old former first lady hopes her trip will help "heal the pain and wounds of 70 years of separation for both sides," according to former South Korean Culture Minister Kim Sung Jae, who is traveling with Lee.

"And she also wishes for the two Koreas to reconcile, cooperate, love and visit each other in a peaceful atmosphere," Kim said before departing.

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance at the Sinpho Pelagic Fishery Complex, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on May 9, 2015.

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance at the Sinpho Pelagic Fishery Complex, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on May 9, 2015.

Possible Kim Jong Un meeting

Lee's visit is being billed as a humanitarian effort, but there is also speculation that she could also meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who invited the former first lady.

The two met in 2011, when Lee visited Pyongyang to pay condolences following the death of Kim's father, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Lee's husband, Kim Dae-jung, was president from 1998 to 2003. His so-called "Sunshine Policy" helped usher in a brief period of better relations with North Korea.

The period of rapprochement came to an end in 2007 with the election of a more conservative South Korean government. Relations have since soured after North Korea made several nuclear and missile tests.

Tensions between the two Koreas constantly flare up. The two countries are still technically at war following their 1950s conflict, which ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

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