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Pres. Lee Bids Farewell to Kim DJ

Posted August. 22, 2009 08:49,   


President Lee Myung-bak yesterday paid his respects to the late former leader Kim Dae-jung at a memorial altar set up at the National Assembly.

The president was accompanied by his wife Kim Yoon-ok, senior presidential secretary for political affairs Maeng Hyung-kyu, and presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan.

After offering a wreath and incense, President Lee wrote in the visitors’ book, “Your love for your country will always be remembered.”

He later met Kim’s widow Lee Hee-ho at the main building of parliament to offer his condolences. The former first lady thanked the president for allowing a state funeral for Kim, to which and President Lee said, “It’s only appropriate to do so.”

President Lee will also attend the funeral Sunday at a plaza in front of the National Assembly.

A six-member North Korean delegation led by Kim Ki Nam, a secretary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party arrived in Seoul yesterday to pay their respects for Kim Dae-jung.

After arriving at the National Assembly at 3:53 p.m., the delegation placed a wreath on the memorial altar and paid a silent tribute to the late president. The wreath had a message from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il saying, “In memory of the late President Kim Dae-jung.”

A chartered plane carrying the delegation arrived at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul around 3 p.m. The plane took off from Sunan Airport in Pyongyang and took a direct route over the Yellow Sea.

South Korea’s Vice Unification Minister Hong Yang-ho and the vice director of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center and former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun received the delegation at the airport.

The trip is the first by high-ranking North Korean officials to South Korea since the inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

The North called the delegation a “special envoy group” sent by Kim Jong Il to pay respects to Kim Dae-jung.

On the possibility of President Lee speaking to the delegation, a source at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul said, “There was no mention of such a meeting so we feel no need to talk about it.”

“If they carried a letter or special message from the North Korean leader, things will be different... A secret meeting is neither possible nor necessary.”

On talks between high-ranking officials from the two Koreas, the source said, “It will be possible if the North Korean delegation wants a meeting, but none is scheduled at this point.”

The delegation will leave Seoul at 2 p.m. today.

yongari@donga.com kyle@donga.com