News / Asia

S. Korea Offers Condolences to North

The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is laid in a memorial palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, December 20, 2011.
The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is laid in a memorial palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, December 20, 2011.

South Korea has offered its condolences to the North Korean people a day after the world learned of the death of ruler Kim Jong Il.  The Seoul government was caught off guard by the news of his passing, amounting to what some say is an intelligence failure.  The South is scrapping plans to turn on provocative Christmas lights along the demilitarized zone.

Speaking after a presidential cabinet meeting on Tuesday, South Korean Minister of Unification Yu Woo-ik spoke on behalf of the government and addressed the people of North Korea.

He says the government conveys a consolation to North Korean citizens for the death of the chairman Kim Jong Il.

Yu says no official delegation will be sent to Pyongyang to attend Kim’s funeral on December 28. But Seoul will allow Lee Hee-ho, the wife of late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, and Hyun Jung-eun, chairwoman of the Hyundai Group, to visit North Korea to offer their personal condolences.  Both families had met with Kim Jong Il, in the past, during efforts to improve political and business relations with the North.

Also on Tuesday, lawmakers in the South Korean National Assembly questioned the nation’s spy chief, Won Sei-hoon, on how the administration was left in the dark about Kim’s death.  Both the National Intelligence Service and the Defense Ministry here say they only became aware of Kim’s passing once it was broadcast on North Korean television.   

Some observers say this represents an embarrassing intelligence failure.  Others say it speaks to how secretive the Pyongyang government is.    

John Delury, who lectures in East Asian studies at Yonsei university in Seoul, says its not the first time the Lee Myung Bak administration has failed to gather intelligence ahead of major incidents.

“They’re getting a lot of heat for again not knowing about it and that's been an ongoing issue with other incidents, other surprises, Kim Jong Il’s visits to China, tensions, conflicts on the NLL, the sea border, this issue has dogged the MB administration and its coming back again now, ” Delury said.

Delury adds that the administration was also late in coming out with an official statement regarding Kim’s death.  He points out that on Monday, the United States, China and Japan had all issued some form of response.

Unification Minister Yu also said during his announcement today that South Korea is backing off on its support to allow Christian groups to light Christmas lights on tree-shaped poles near the Demilitarized Zone.  Pyongyang previously had labeled the practice psychological warfare.

Yu says, because North Korea is in a mourning period, the government has decided to recommend the religious groups to defer the lighting of Christmas trees which was planned for December 23, near inter-Korean boarder.

North Korea had threatened to attack the three locations if the thousands of lights are switched on.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs