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State Funeral Held for Former Pres. Kim DJ

Posted August. 24, 2009 08:27,   


The state funeral for former President Kim Dae-jung was held yesterday at a plaza in front of the National Assembly in Seoul’s Yeouido district.

President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok, former Presidents Kim Young-sam and Chun Doo-hwan, domestic politicians and foreign delegates from 11 countries attended the ceremony.

The foreign delegates included former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, and former Japanese House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono.

In Korea’s largest state funeral in history attended by more than 24,000 people, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo offered the eulogy. Religious services and floral tributes followed.

Following the funeral, the motorcade carrying the body of the late president headed for Seoul National Cemetery in the city’s southern region, passing through Seoul Plaza and Seoul Station. It also dropped by Kim Dae-jung’s home in Seoul’s Donggyo district and Kim Dae Jung Peace Center.

When the motorcade passed Seoul Plaza, the late president’s widow Lee Hee-ho got off her car and told mourners, “My husband sincerely wants you all to pursue reconciliation and forgiveness, the values my husband cherished for life, and love, peace and care for the underprivileged. This is my husband’s will.”

President Lee met the foreign delegates attending the funeral.

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye quoted him as saying, “Former President Kim devoted his entire life to promote democracy and improve inter-Korean relations,” adding, “I thank you all for coming here to pay tribute to the late president.”

After the burial ceremony, tens of thousands of people visited Seoul Plaza and the National Assembly, where altars were set up, to pay their respects to the late former President Kim Dae-jung. No anti-government demonstrations occurred, however.

With fairness questioned in the process of deciding on a state funeral for him, the government will face pressure to come up with clear principles and standards on if a former president gets a state or people’s funeral.

According to the state funeral preparation committee, more than 600,000 people visited 182 altars nationwide to bid farewell to the late president Tuesday through yesterday.

The six-day official mourning period provided a rare opportunity for national unity and inter-Korean reconciliation. This has led to hope that Kim Dae-jung’s death will pave the way for resolution of geographical, ideological, class, and factional conflicts and confrontations.

Politicians also say his death will help warm relations between the ruling and opposition parties, which have soured since the ruling Grand National Party railroaded media reform bills through parliament last month.

The ruling party will reportedly urge the main opposition Democratic Party to return to parliament without precondition to discuss pending issues, including those related to the people’s livelihood.

For its part, the Democratic Party, which has boycotted the National Assembly in protest of the passage of the media bills, is expected to decide its course of action after gathering opinions from its members.