Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun said Saturday that she received a personal letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a one-day visit to the communist nation to hold a memorial service for her late husband.
In the letter, Kim said he prays for the soul of the late Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-hun and wished the South Korean business group all the best, Hyun told reporters after returning from the Mount Kumgang resort just north of the inter-Korean border.
Hyun did not meet Kim in person, and the letter was conveyed via Won Dong-yon, vice chairman of the North's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, during the memorial service, she said. Won was among some 20 North Korean officials attending the ceremony, she said.
It was the first time that the North's leader has given a personal letter to someone from the South since he took over the reins of power in the communist nation after his father Kim Jong-il died in late 2011.
Hyun's visit came as the two Koreas reached a deadlock in negotiations over the resumption of an joint industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong, the last-remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation.
The sides have held six rounds of talks but failed to find a compromise as differences in their positions are too wide to narrow. South Korea proposed to hold one last round of negotiations, but the North has remained silent on the offer.
Kim's letter has spurred speculation that Pyongyang might accept the proposal.
A South Korean government official declined comment, saying the letter was about Hyundai.
Chung, who aggressively sought business projects with North Korea, committed suicide in 2003 amid an investigation into allegations that former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung secretly transferred large sums of money to the North ahead of a 2000 inter-Korean summit.
Hyun has since succeeded her husband as Hyundai's chief.
Hyundai officials have held a memorial service for Chung at the North Korean mountain resort every year since his death. It was the first time in four years that Hyun attended the memorial service at the mountain resort.
Hyun said she had no business discussions with North Korean officials during the visit, but stressed that she will do her best to reopen the suspended mountain tourism project.
Hyundai Asan Corp., Hyundai Group's North Korea business arm, had been at the forefront of inter-Korean business cooperation and played a leading role in the opening of the mountain resort and the Kaesong factory park. All such projects, however, have been suspended due to political and military tensions.
The mountain tourism project was suspended after the shooting death of a female South Korean tourist by a North Korean guard in the summer of 2008, while operations at the jointly run industrial complex have been halted since April after the North withdrew all of its 53,000 workers amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (Yonhap News)