N. Korea to deliver condolence message, flowers for late first lady’s funeral

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The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will deliver a condolence message and flowers to South Korea at the border village of Panmunjom on Wednesday over the death of former South Korean first lady Lee Hee-ho, the unification ministry said. The North informed the South through their joint liaison office in the North’s border city of Kaesong that the leader’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, will deliver the message and flowers at the North Korean side of Panmunjom at 5 p.m., the ministry said. Chung Eui-yong, head of the presidential National Security Office, Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho and Rep. Park Jie-won of the minor opposition Party of Democracy and Peace will travel to Panmunjom to accept the message and flowers, the ministry said.

 

On Monday, Lee Hee-ho died at the age of 96 after battling liver cancer. She is known for her lifelong support for her husband’s efforts to bring democracy to South Korea and make peace with North Korea. Her funeral is set for Friday. South Korea informed North Korea of her death through the liaison office on Tuesday. Expectations had arisen that North Korea could send a delegation of officials to pay their respects over her death, which observers said could serve as a stimulus to move stalled inter-Korean relations forward.

 

When Lee’s husband and the architect of the “sunshine policy” of engaging North Korea, Kim Dae-jung, died in 2009, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sent a condolence message to the bereaved family the next day and sent a delegation of special envoys to his funeral. Lee accompanied her husband to Pyongyang in 2000 for his first inter-Korean summit with Kim Jong-il. Lee made two more trips to the North in 2011 and 2015. She was among the first South Koreans who met current leader Kim Jong-un when she traveled to Pyongyang in 2011 to pay her respects after Kim Jong-il’s death.

 

By Koh Byung-joon

(Yonhap)

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