South Korea’s former first lady to visit Pyongyang

Seoul, June 26 (IANS) The widow of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung is likely to visit North Korea next month and meet with leader Kim Jong-un, an official said on Friday.

Lee Hee-ho, 89, the first lady while Kim Dae-jung served in office from 1998 to 2003, has been awaiting a response from North Korea for her cross-border trip, which could help alleviate tension on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Kim Dae-jung died in 2009 at the age of 83.

“North Korea has proposed a meeting next Tuesday in Kaesong regarding Lee’s possible visit to North Korea in response to our call for talks last week,” said Kim Sung-jae, an official of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Centre.

“Today, we submitted a document to win the government’s approval for the visit to Keasong,” he said, adding “some five officials from the South are to meet with five North Korean counterparts to arrange her schedule”.

She is expected to visit Pyongyang as early as next month and no later than August 15, the official said, adding that other details will be fixed during the next week’s meeting.

Lee first expressed her wish to travel to the North for humanitarian purposes last October. Her request was accepted by Pyongyang, but she had to postpone the plan due to the cold winter season.

In a letter sent to Lee in December after she sent a wreath of flowers across the border to mark the third anniversary of the death of his late father, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un said he was “looking forward to having Lee in Pyongyang once the weather gets warmer in 2015.”

In April, the peace centre again proposed that a prior contact with the North Korean side arrange her visit but the North refused to do so citing “complex inter-Korean circumstances.”

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