DJ’s widow visits temple, orphanage

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DJ’s widow visits temple, orphanage

Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, visited Mount Myohyang on Friday amid uncertainty whether she will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before returning to Seoul.

The 93-year-old former first lady was scheduled on Friday to visit the International Friendship Exhibition, which displays gifts presented by foreign delegations to North Korea, as well as the Bohyun Temple, according to the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, the civilian organization Lee chairs.

Mount Myohyang, the second-highest mountain in the country, located between North and South Pyongan Provinces, is considered a sacred site for Koreans and was designated a Unseco world biosphere reserve in 2009. Lee was also slated to host a dinner in the evening.

She arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday for a four-day trip to North Korea, which included visits to a children’s hospital and a maternity clinic in the capital.

On Thursday, Lee visited an orphanage and delivered humanitarian goods, including wool hats and scarves. There, she also presented medical supplies for children, including cold medicines and nutritional supplements donated by the Korea Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

Later on Thursday, a group of six North Korean officials led by Maeng Kyong-il, the vice chairman of North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, hosted Lee and her civilian delegation for dinner at Paekhwawon, the North’s state guesthouse reserved for visiting heads of state in Pyongyang.

The atmosphere was “harmonious,” the center said.

Lee was scheduled to leave Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang at 11 a.m. on Saturday to return to Seoul.

Observers pointed to the possibility that Lee could meet with the North Korean leader later on Friday or before she departs Pyongyang, amid speculation that she could deliver a message of peace and reconciliation to him in person.

Before leaving for Pyongyang, Lee had emphasized her hope that the two Koreas could reconcile and allow for their people to travel freely North and South, thereby healing the pain caused by 70 years of division.

She did not carry an official government message.

Lee briefly met the young leader in December 2011, when she visited Pyongyang to pay her condolences for the death of former leader Kim Jong-il, the father of Kim Jong-un.

Her husband, who served as president from 1998 to 2003, is well recalled in the North for his Sunshine Policy.

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

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