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Ex-first lady returns home from N.K visit

The widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung on Saturday returned home after her rare visit to North Korea, a trip which she hoped could pave the way for inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation.

But Lee Hee-ho, 93, failed to have a much-anticipated meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who extended her the invitation for a four-day visit to the North that started Wendesday.

"I visited North Korea with a sense of duty, believing that I should contribute to helping inherit the spirit of June 15 (joint declaration)," Lee said in a press conference upon her arrival at an airport in Seoul, referring to the outcome of a historic inter-Korean summit in 2000.

"When I held the hands of North Korean children there, I thought that we should not pass on the pain of the two Koreas' division to our next generation," she said. Lee was the South's first lady during Kim's five-year tenure until 2003.

Lee's visit was in the spotlight on the hopes that it may help ease tension on the divided peninsula, sparked by the North's nuclear and missile tests. The two Koreas have not held high-level talks since February 2014.

Lee's late husband, who died in 2009, was the architect of the "sunshine" policy that actively pushed for cross-border exchanges and reconciliation. He held the first inter-Korean summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000. At that time, Lee accompanied her husband to Pyongyang.

North Korea warned Thursday that an additional nuke test will hinge on the attitude of the United States, accusing it of being "hell-bent" on toppling the North Korean regime.

South Korea did not ask Lee to deliver a message on the inter-Korean ties on the behalf of the government as her trip was made in a private capacity.

During her stay in the North, Lee visited a children and maternity hospital and homes for orphans and the elderly in the capital. She delivered knitted scarves and medicine to North Korean children, according to the peace center.

On Friday, she toured an exhibition center and a Buddhist temple at Mount Myohyang, about a three hours' drive north of Pyongyang. The mountain is believed to be frequented by the North's leader Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju.

Lee's late husband, who died in 2009, was the architect of the "sunshine" policy that actively pushed for cross-border exchanges and reconciliation. He held the first inter-Korean summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000. At that time, Lee accompanied her husband to Pyongyang.

She briefly met with the North's current leader in December 2011 when she visited Pyongyang to pay tribute upon the death of his father Kim Jong-il. But the trip was limited to offering condolences and no other matters were discussed at that time. (Yonhap)
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