Seoul nixes trip for Park’s family

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Seoul nixes trip for Park’s family

The South Korean government said it would not allow the bereaved family of the late Park Yong-gil, widow of a famed unification activist, to visit North Korea after officials there said they were willing to deliver the regime’s condolences if they came.

“We judged that the bereaved family or members of the funeral committee crossing the border to get consoled by North Korean officials does not match traditional funeral customs and public sentiment,” said an official from the Ministry of Unification.

The ministry said that it could instead allow a North Korean delegation to visit the South with proper security measures.

At a press conference early yesterday, the funeral committee for Park disclosed that Pyongyang had invited them to Kaesong in a fax sent a day earlier that was signed by Kim Yang-gon, chairman of North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Committee.

Upon being informed of Seoul’s decision, however, the North turned down the South’s invitation and said they were no longer able to meet in Kaesong because of a lack of preparation time, the funeral committee said.

“We regret [Seoul’s decision] because we hoped that it could have provided momentum in thawing strained South-North relations,” said Kim Sang-geun, head of the funeral committee, at a press conference.

Park was a well-known figure in South Korea’s pro-unification movement, following in the footsteps of her husband Rev. Moon Ik-hwan, who died in 1994. Park died on Sunday at a Seoul hospital of undisclosed chronic illnesses at the age of 93.

Born in 1919 in Hwanghae in what is now North Korea, Park graduated from Kyunggi Girls’ High School in Seoul and a women’s theology school in Yokohama, Japan. She met Moon at a gathering of Korean theology students in Japan, and they married in 1944.

Park’s political involvement began after Moon was jailed for an antigovernment rally at Myeongdong Cathedral in 1976, where he, future President Kim Dae-jung and other pro-democratization activists demanded the resignation of President Park Chung Hee. After Moon’s death in 1994, Park served as a senior adviser to pro-unification civic groups in the South and as the South’s representative in inter-Korean events. Park visited the North in June 1995 and in October 2000.

Park’s funeral will be held this morning at Seoul National University Hospital with eulogies from poet Ko Un and former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook. Park is survived by two sons and a daughter.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

북 “박용길 조문할테니 유족들 개성 오라”

통일부 “예법 어긋나 방북 불허”

북한이 고(故) 박용길 장로의 유족을 개성으로 불러 조의를 표명하려다 우리 정부의 반대로 뜻을 이루지 못했다.

통일부 당국자는 27일 “북측이 26일 고 문익환 목사의 부인인 박 장로의 장례위원회 측에 ‘개성으로 내려가 장례와 관련한 협의를 하려 하니 유족과 장례위 관계자가 방북해 달라’는 팩스를 보냈다”며 “하지만 북측의 요구가 부적절하다고 판단해 방북 승인을 하지 않았다”고 말했다. 이 당국자는 “유가족을 자기 지역으로 불러 조의를 전한다는 건 전통 예법이나 정서에 어긋나는 이해할 수 없는 일”이라고 설명했다.

  정부는 “조문단이 서울로 온다면 정중하고 안전하게 편의를 보장할 것”이란 입장을 전달했다. 그러나 북한은 이날 개성에서 유족을 만나자던 당초 계획을 접고 “준비관계상 개성으로 갈 수 없게 됐다”는 답변을 보내 왔다. 북한은 대신 관영 조선중앙통신을 통해 김정일의 조전(弔電)을 보도했다.

김정일은 “그(박 장로)가 민족의 화합과 통일을 위해 바친 애국의 넋은 북과 남, 해외 온 겨레의 마음속에 길이 남아 있을 것”이라고 강조했다. 장례위 측은 북측 태도에 대해서는 언급 없이 “이해할 수 없는 건 통일부의 태도”라고 비난 입장을 냈다.

북한은 1994년 1월 문익환 목사 사망 때는 김일성 명의의 조전만 보냈다. 2001년 3월 정주영 현대 명예회장의 장례식 때는 조문단을 파견했다.

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