DJ’s widow postpones trip to North

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DJ’s widow postpones trip to North

Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, has delayed her plan to visit North Korea due to health reasons.

In a statement issued Monday, the Kim Dae-Jung Peace Center said that her trip will be postponed until May or June next year.

“Lee wished to visit the North before the end of this year,” the release said, “but she accepted the recommendations of her doctors and postponed the trip.”

According to Rep. Park Jie-won, a member of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and previously a key confident to the late President Kim, the 92-year-old former first lady was hospitalized in October to treat pneumonia.

The center said it will formally inform North Korea about its decision on Monday.

Lee expressed her hope in October during a meeting with President Park Geun-hye to visit North Korea for a humanitarian mission.

The Kim Dae-Jung Peace Center held a meeting with officials from North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee on Nov. 21, shortly after the South Korea’s Ministry of Unification granted the center permission to contact North Korea to arrange Lee’s trip.

A few details were discussed, including a plan for Lee to travel to the North using a car and Pyongyang’s promise to allow Lee to stay at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse, though no date for her trip was set at the time.

Although the center said the purpose of Lee’s visit was for humanitarian reasons, some North Korea observers have speculated that she could meet with Kim Jong-un, the leader of the reclusive regime.

Lee met Kim in 2011 when she visited Pyongyang to express her condolences after the death of Kim Jong-il, the young ruler’s father.

The timing of this trip was considered sensitive, as it would have coincided with the third anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death on Dec. 17, and some officials had expressed concerns that Pyongyang could try to use her visit for propaganda purposes.

The center, however, dismissed claims that the trip was postponed until next year in order to alleviate political concerns.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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