Kim Dae-jung’s legacy celebratedPark Jie-won, a senior lawmaker with the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said yesterday that he will visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea at 5 p.m. on Sunday to receive a wreath from Pyongyang commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of former President Kim Dae-jung.
The late South Korean leader had particularly amicable relations with Pyongyang.
“I have directly and indirectly arranged the visit with North Korea and everything is progressing smoothly,” Park told the press.
The Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation, the legacy of the deceased Nobel Peace Prize laureate that is now run by his widow, Lee Hui-ho, asked for the North’s preparation for South Korea’s reception of the wreath at the industrial complex, which is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Seoul. Park will be accompanied by four other South Korean officials, including Kim Hong-eop, the late president’s second son and a former lawmaker; Lim Dong-won, the former unification minister; Yoon Chul-gu, the secretary general of the peace foundation, as well as another official from the organization.
Lee, its current chairwoman, will not be accompanying Park, according to a government source who did not elaborate further.
“We delivered the letter of notice in the name of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation to North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee via the liaison office at Panmunjeom this morning,” a Ministry of Unification official confirmed.
The ministry’s announcement comes a day after North Korea announced through its Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee that a high-ranking official intended to deliver a wreath to a South Korean official at 8 a.m. Monday at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
The Unification Ministry said that the wreath delivery had been moved up a day, as the peace foundation had a scheduling conflict at the time North Korea initially proposed the handover.
Should the 73-year-old politician be allowed to visit Kaesong, it will mark seven years since he last crossed the inter-Korean border. He visited Mount Kumgang with Lee, Kim’s widow, in August 2007. He also visited North Korea in June 2000 as a special envoy for the inter-Korean summit.
Park’s visit raises hopes that there could finally be a thaw in the long-frozen relationship between the two Koreas. Kim Dae-jung articulated and successfully implemented the Sunshine Policy, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.
Although North Korea did not identify which high-ranking official would deliver the wreath, South Korean sources say it is highly likely that it will be Kim Yang-gon, director of the United Front Department on South Korea policy and a secretary in the regime’s Workers’ Party.
Park had various roles under the Kim administration from 1998 to 2003 as the president’s top aide. Both were born in South Jeolla, the traditional stronghold of left-wing political parties.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]