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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid