News / Asia

South Korean Civilian Delegations Head North for Kim Funeral

Lee Hee-ho, the wife of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, center, arrives at Kaesong, North Korea, December 26, 2011.
Lee Hee-ho, the wife of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, center, arrives at Kaesong, North Korea, December 26, 2011.

Two small South Korean civilian delegations have crossed the border on their way to Pyongyang to pay condolences after the death of long-time leader Kim Jong Il. With the state funeral just days away, North Korean state television has been in overdrive to promote Kim Jong Il's younger son and successor, Kim Jong Un, as a great military leader - despite his lack of experience. 

Thetwo small delegations crossing the heavily armed border were accompanying widows of central figures from South Korea's "Sunshine Policy" era of generosity toward North Korea.

Lee Hee-ho is the widow of former president Kim Dae-jung, whose historic 2000 summit with Kim Jong Il cleared the way for economic cooperation between the two Koreas and the transfer of billions of dollars in aid to the impoverished North.

Yoon Chul-gu, Secretary-General of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation, read a statement from Lee, saying her visit was to reciprocate an earlier courtesy on the part of the North.

"When my husband passed away in August 2009, chairman Kim Jong Il sent a condolence delegation to Seoul. I think it is a duty to make a condolence call," she said in the statement.

Hyun Jeong-eun, the widow of Hyundai group former chairman Chung Mong-hun, crossed in a separate small delegation. The Hyundai conglomerate was instrumental in building and managing special economic zones for tourism and industry in North Korea, and has made extensive investments to stimulate North-South economic cooperation.

"The South is allowing the civilian groups' visit North Korea for the future of the North-South relations," said Choi Boh-seon, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry. "Seoul hopes this would create momentum to continue reconciliation and exchanges between the two Koreas."

South Korea tightly controls travel to the North under its National Security Law. The two delegations are the only civilians permitted to pay condolences. No South Korean government delegation is visiting the North.

A semi-official North Korean website had offered to allow in any South Korean group willing to pay condolences to the late Kim. But Brian Myers, a professor specializing in North Korean propaganda at South Korea's Dongseo University, says Pyongyang was never likely to insist on a mass visit.

"They don't really want a sizeable South Korean delegation, not just because it would cause logistic problems, but also because they would be unlikely to behave in the way expected of them," he said. "I think the North Koreans would expect any Korean visitors to Pyongyang to be just as distraught, or at least to put on an act and pretend to be as distraught, as the locals. And I don't think the South Koreans would be likely to do that."

It remains unclear whether the two delegations will have an opportunity to interact personally with Kim Jong Il's youngest son and successor, Kim Jung Un. North Korean media have been portraying the young Kim as upholding his father's "military first policy," reporting that he has been named "supreme commander" of the country's forces.

Professor Myers says information about the new leader himself has been scant.

"There's a lot more talk about people's admiration for the young man than there is actual talk about the young man himself," he said. "We're getting repeated avowals of unity and loyalty to the young man, and we're still not seeing an official biography of him. So I think average North Korean is asking himself just what makes this person so uniquely qualified to rule."

Kim Jong Il's funeral is scheduled for Wednesday.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More