North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister met South Korean officials on their heavily defended border yesterday to deliver flowers and her brother’s condolences over the death of a former South Korean first lady.
The sister, Kim Yo-jong, visited the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas to pay her respects to Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, a South Korean official said. Lee died in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Monday. Kim Dae-jung tried to promote better ties on the divided Korean peninsula and became the first South Korean leader to meet North Korea’s then-leader, Kim Jong-il, in 2000.
South Korean officials said Kim Yo-jong, who has emerged over the past 18 months as a top aide to her brother, did not have any particular message or letter for South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The two sides talked for about 15 minutes.
“She said she hopes the South and the North will continue cooperation, upholding Ms Lee Hee-ho’s resolve for reconciliation and co-operation between the people,” South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters.
“Today, she focused on cherishing the deceased and sharing condolences.”
Moon’s press secretary told a separate briefing that Kim Yo-jong also said her brother had a “special feeling” towards Lee. Kim Yo-jong’s visit came exactly a year after her brother and US President Donald Trump agreed at the first US-North Korea summit in Singapore to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, easing fears of war.
Those talks have since stalled and inter-Korean engagement has dwindled. Kim Dae-jung, president from 1998 to 2003, is known for championing a so-called Sunshine policy of engagement with North Korea. Last year’s detente between the two Koreas was seen as a revival of that policy.
Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace.
Last year saw a number of high-level meetings between South and North, including three summits between Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s President Moon.
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