DJ’s widow makes new plan to visit Pyongyang

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DJ’s widow makes new plan to visit Pyongyang

Lee Hee-ho, the widow of the late President Kim Dae-jung, is planning to make a visit to Pyongyang as early as next month, where she is expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Lee’s nonprofit organization, the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, said Friday that Pyongyang made contact Thursday to meet at the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of the former first lady’s visit after her last trip was canceled due to poor health. The center made contact with North Korea on June 18.

Kim Sung-jae, head of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, who served as the former president’s culture minister from 2002 to 2003, said that five South Korean officials will meet with representatives from the North to arrange the trip.

“Meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was already discussed last time with North Korea in their initial invitation, thus we will mainly focus on negotiating the timing, which will be as soon as next month, but before Aug. 15,” he said.

The center also submitted a request to the Ministry of Unification for permission for the trip.

“The Kim Dae-jung Peace Center has submitted a request to travel North. The government will review whether to accept the request by determining the reason for travel to the North and the application conditions,” ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol confirmed on Friday.

He added that the government has been “proactive in supporting civilian-level exchanges and humanitarian support to pave the way for actual cooperation.”

Lee, 92, proposed a trip to North Korea last year for humanitarian reasons, but the visit was postponed to this year due to her health.

She had attempted to time the trip with the third anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death on Dec. 17, 2011.

Her husband, who served as president from 1998 to 2003, is well recalled in the North for his Sunshine Policy, which led to the late Nobel laureate’s first inter-Korean summit with Kim Jong-il in 2000.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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