News / Asia

South Korea Will Allow Citizens to Send Condolences to North

The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il lies in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, December 20, 2011.
The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il lies in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, December 20, 2011.
Jason Strother

The South Korean government has not offered North Korea official condolences about the death of ruler Kim Jong Il, but it is allowing private citizens and organizations to express their sympathy by granting rare cross-border contact.  The decision does not sit well with some activist groups who say no one should feel sorry about the loss of a dictator.  

South Koreans are not normally permitted to send messages across the border.  There has not been mail or telephone service between the two nations for six decades.  But following the death of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il, Seoul's Unification Ministry is bending the rules.

During a briefing Thursday, Park Soo-jin, vice spokeswoman for the government body that handles relations with the North said the Unification Ministry will accept requests from individuals or groups who want to express condolences to North Korea.  After the ministry contacts Pyongyang, the messages can be sent to the North by either letter or fax.

Some progressive civic groups, pro-engagement political parties and companies who do business with North Korea are expected to send their sympathies over Kim's death.  The Unification Ministry says Hyundai-Asan, the South Korean firm that jointly ran a tourist venture with the North until recently, was one of the first to apply.

While Seoul will not send an official delegation to attend Kim Jong Il's funeral on December 28, the wife of late President Kim Dae-jung, Lee Hee-ho, and the chairwoman of the Hyundai Group, Hyun Jung-eun, will be allowed to travel if okayed by Pyongyang.

The fact that South Korea is doing anything to commemorate the life of Kim Jong Il does not go over very well with activist Park Sang-hak.  He is a North Korean defector who, along with other demonstrators, recently launched balloons carrying anti-Kim Jong Il propaganda leaflets over the demilitarized zone.

"What kind of person was Kim Jong Il?" he asked. "No one sent condolences to Libya after Muammar Gaddafi died.  Kim Jong Il was worse than him, Gaddafi did not have prison camps, he did not starve his people like Kim did.  It does not make sense to send a delegation to attend his funeral."

But other observers say that considering the poor state of Korean relations, the Lee Myung-bak administration is missing out on a chance to improve ties by not officially expressing sympathy.

"It is a very passive gesture of condolence, rather than sending a direct message from the government they just said we will not ban such and such a person from going.  From my vantage point, they could have done more," said John Delury, who lectures in East Asian Studies at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Delury says the government in Seoul continues to send mixed signals to Pyongyang.  While allowing activist groups to send propaganda balloons across the border, it has asked churches not to illuminate Christmas lights along the demilitarized zone out of respect for the North.

The evangelical Christian group that was to turn on the holiday lights on December 23, says it will postpone the ceremony.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid