N. Korean leader sends wreath to mark anniversary of former president's death

By 김영원
  • Published : Aug 17, 2014 - 19:22
  • Updated : Aug 17, 2014 - 19:23

North Korea's leader sent a wreath marking the fifth anniversary of the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to a delegation visiting the communist country on Sunday.

The wreath presented by Kim Yang-gon, the head of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, was sent by Kim Jong-un, who also forwarded a telegram of condolences to the five-person delegation made up of the president's son and close aides.

The contents of the telegram are not known but the wreath was signed by Kim Jong-un and inscribed with the words "in memory of former President Kim."

The handover took place at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, just north of the demilitarized zone that separates the two sides.

The joint industrial complex is viewed as one of the crowning achievements of inter-Korean rapprochement started by the former South Korean leader. 

Among those who crossed into North Korea earlier in the day to receive the wreath were Kim Dae-jung's son Hong Up, a former lawmaker, Park Jie-won, a prominent lawmaker of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, and former Unification Minister Lim Dong-won.

Kim is respected in North Korea for his efforts to reconcile with the country. He held historic summit talks with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000. The former South Korean leader died in August 2009.

Sources close to the visit said officials from the two sides held talks from 5:10 p.m. to 6 p.m. There has been no word on the response the North made to Seoul's proposal to hold high-level talks.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles all inter-Korean affairs, had approved the trip in advance after Pyongyang sent an invitation on Thursday. All trips by South Koreans to North Korea require the South Korean government's approval as well as the North's consent.

Despite efforts at reconciliation, the two Koreas are still technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Park, who crossed over to the North at 4:30 p.m., had earlier visited Lee Hee-ho, President Kim's widow, who expressed hope that the latest trip will help bring about reconciliation between the two sides.

She also said it would be nice if South Korea sent a wreath commemorating the passing of Kim Jong-il, the incumbent North Korean leader's father.

The latest trip, meanwhile, came amid tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

On Friday, North Korea vowed to continually test-fire rockets in what it called a powerful show of force against South Korea and the United States, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said, citing a senior official handling the country's rocket research.

It then blasted joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States set for this week, warning that it will conduct pre-emptive strikes against all forms of aggression.

Seoul has warned Pyongyang that any provocation will be met with an immediate response.