Seoul government allows civilians to send condolence messages to Pyongyang
Ruling Grand National Party’s interim leader Rep. Park Geun-hye on Wednesday rejected the liberal opposition’s proposal to send a parliamentary delegation to the funeral of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Her objection came a day after the Seoul government said it would not send its delegation to the North, but would allow the bereaved families of former President Kim Dae-jung and former Hyundai Asan chairman Chung Mong-hun to visit the North.
“There should not be any ‘South-South’ conflict or division of public opinion over the issue. As the government decided not to send its delegation, I believe we should not go against this basic position,” Park said during her meeting with Rep. Won Hye-young, co-head of the main opposition Democratic Unified Party.
“North Korea has already said that it would not invite any foreign delegations. The ruling and opposition parities already expressed their positions over it. Thus, I believe forming a parliamentary delegation is inappropriate.”
Won reiterated the legislature should have in-depth discussions over the issue.
“The National Assembly can actively lead the issue in the position between the government and the civilian sector. I hope that there will be more discussions to find good ways to deal with it rather than getting mired in a political dispute,” he said.
“I hope that we can show to the people that the parliament is moving half a step ahead of the government.”
Whether the government should express its condolences and send its delegation to the North emerged as a hot-button issue with people sharply divided along ideological lines.
Meanwhile, the Seoul government said that it will allow civic groups and individuals to send condolence messages to the North.
“Our basic position is that we will allow civilians to send condolence messages to the North by fax or mail. For that, they have to submit the application to the Unification Ministry for contact with the North,” ministry spokesperson Choi Bo-seon said in a press briefing.
“Should there be any special reasons, the applications will be accepted.”
Hyundai Asan, the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation and several other organizations are said to have applied to send condolences to the North.
Former First Lady Lee Hee-ho and Chung’s widow Hyun Jeong-eun began consultations with the government over their visits to the North. Observers said that Lee and Hyun are likely to form a joint delegation.
After they fine-tune details with Lee and Hyun, the government will notify the North of them, officials said.
The government allowed them to attend the funeral, slated for Dec. 28, in Pyongyang in return for the visits by the North to the funerals of Kim Dae-jung and Chung Mong-hun in August 2009 and in August 2003, respectively.
Kim carried out the “sunshine policy” of engaging the North while Chung pioneered business exchanges between the two Koreas.
Whether the North will accept their visits remains still uncertain as it said that it would not receive any foreign delegations.
Observers said that the North might accept a limited number of foreign figures who have been friendly to the communist state.
When national founder Kim Il-sung died in 1994, the North said it would not accept foreign delegations. But it allowed a small number of ethnic Koreans from overseas to attend his funeral.
In the meantime, police have begun reviewing whether some internet cafes violated the National Security Law by glorifying the North Korean leader or setting up online altars for Kim.
The act of simply expressing condolences is not in breach of the law, but repeatedly posting messages worshiping the North contravenes the law, according to the police
Some liberal-minded judges, who have denounced the parliamentary passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, criticized the police investigation, calling it a “barbarous” move.
“When will this barbarous idea that the nation or the government can control people’s thinking disappear?” Choi Eun-bae, judge at Incheon District Court said on his Facebook account.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com