N.Korea-condolence trip former first lady, Hyundai Group chief to visit N.Korea next weekNo politicians or prominent figures will accompany the wife of the late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung when she visits North Korea next week to offer condolences on the death of leader Kim Jong-il, Seoul officials said Saturday.
The Seoul government earlier had issued a permit for former first lady Lee Hee-ho and Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun to visit North Korea to pay condolences on the leader's death.
After consultations with North Korea, the Unification Ministry said Saturday Lee and Hyeon will cross the border into North Korea overland on Monday and return home the next day. They will not attend the funeral set for Wednesday, it said.
A total of 18 people will accompany the two visitors during the trip, the ministry said in a statement, adding that no politicians or prominent figures will be included in the team.
North Korea is marking a 13-day mourning period for Kim Jong-il who it said had died of a heart failure on Dec. 17 at the age of 69.
South Korea, which is still technically at war with North Korea, has decided not to send an official delegation but extended condolences to the "people" of North Korea.
The Seoul government has issued a travel ban on its citizens in connection with the leader's death, except for the two women whose husbands had "special" relationships with the late North Korean leader.
Kim Dae-jung, in office from 1998-2003, held a historic summit with Kim Jong-il in 2000, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize the same year. Hyun's husband, Chung Mong-hun who died in 2003, actively pushed joint venture economic projects with North Korea.
Plans by Kim Dae-jung's wife to travel with some influential figures were rejected, Unification Ministry officials said. Names cited included Park Jie-won, an incumbent opposition lawmaker who served as the chief of staff to the late president, and former National Intelligence Service director Lim Dong-won.
Both aides were key backers of the late president's trademark "sunshine" policy of pushing reconciliation with North Korea. That policy was abandoned when the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul in 2008.
On her way back home from the North Korea trip, Kim Dae-jung's wife may stop by a joint industrial park built by South Korea in the North's border city of Kaesong, aides said.
The industrial park, opened in 2004, is a symbol of Kim Dae-jung's sunshine policy. Currently, some 120 small-scale South Korean garment and other plants are operating there, hiring more than 40,000 North Korean workers.
Major cross-border projects promoted by Hyundai Group include a sightseeing tour to Mount Kumgang in North Korea's east coast. That tour has been suspended since the shooting death in 2008 of a South Korean tourist at the resort.