Sun, Aug 09, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Former S Korean first lady fails to meet Kim Jong-un

AFP, SEOUL

The widow of late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung returned home yesterday from a rare trip to North Korea, but her hoped-for meeting with leader Kim Jong-un failed to come about.

Lee Hee-ho’s four-day visit was ostensibly humanitarian, but there had been much speculation about a possible meeting with Kim, who personally invited her.

However, her aides said she had not been given the chance to see Kim Jong-un during the trip.

Lee’s husband is best remembered for his “sunshine” policy of engagement with the isolated but nuclear-armed North that led to a historic summit between him and Kim Jong-un’s late father, Kim Jong-il in 2000.

Lee said she visited the North as a private civilian and had not been assigned any official duty.

“However, I made the trip with a view to dedicating to the spirit of the June 15 declaration,” she said in a statement on returning to Seoul, referring to an inter-Korean agreement for peace and reconciliation signed at the end of the landmark summit.

After arriving in Pyongyang, Lee had visited hospitals caring for children and young mothers.

“Holding the hands of innocent, beaming children there, I deeply felt we should not pass the pain of the division of the motherland on to the next generations,” she said.

“I hope all Koreans can put their minds together to overcome divisions and achieve reunification through reconciliation, cooperation and love, as was declared in the June 15 declaration,” the 93-year-old former first lady added.

The “sunshine” policy was largely abandoned when a conservative administration took power in South Korea in 2008 and cross-border ties soured.

A series of nuclear and missile launches by the North in recent years as well as occasional military clashes have kept tensions high.

Lee had visited the North three times before. Her most recent trip was in December 2011 to pay her respects during the funeral of Kim Jong-il.

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