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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid