The widow of former President Kim Dae-jung visited facilities for orphans and the elderly in North Korea Thursday, but it is not immediately known whether she is able to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, her aides said.
Lee Hee-ho, 93, who was the South’s first lady during Kim’s five-year tenure until 2003, arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday for a four-day visit, hoping that her rare trip could pave the way for inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation in a landmark year.
Earlier in the day, she visited the homes for children and the elderly in Pyongyang and she will later leave for Mount Myohyang in North Pyongan Province, about a three hours’ drive north of the capital, according to the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, the organizer of the trip.
But it is still not clear whether she will meet with the North’s leader who invited Lee to visit.
Lee’s visit is in the spotlight on the hopes that it may help ease lingering 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.
As her visit to the North is for humanitarian purposes, Lee delivered knitted scarves and medicine to North Korean children, according to the peace center.
There is still the expectation that she could deliver a message of peace and reconciliation if she meets with the North’s young leader during her visit, experts say.
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, she 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.
The two Koreas are set to celebrate Liberation Day which falls on Aug. 15 to mark the 70th anniversary of their liberation from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.
But it is highly likely that the two sides will not hold a joint event to celebrate the anniversary.
The North has rejected the South’s proposal for inter-Korean talks, calling on Seoul to end its joint military exercise with Washington and lift its economic sanctions against the North. (Yonhap)
The Korea Herald