Pyongyang remains silent on demise of Kim Young-sam

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Pyongyang remains silent on demise of Kim Young-sam

North Korea remained silent on the death of former President Kim Young-sam Wednesday, the fourth day of a five-day official mourning period. The absence of official response or any media reports from Pyongyang on Kim, who died Sunday at age 87 of a severe blood infection and acute heart failure, come in sharp contrast to its responses six years ago when two former presidents passed away.

When former President Kim Dae-jung died on Aug. 18, 2009, the North reported on his death the next day and sent a high-level delegation of six officials led by Kim Ki-nam, Secretary of the Workers’ Party, to Seoul on Aug. 21 to pay respects. Kim was widely respected by North Koreans for launching the so-called Sunshine Policy in which Seoul tried to engage Pyongyang through aid and business cooperation.

When Kim’s successor Roh Moo-hyun, who continued the engagement policy, committed suicide over a corruption investigation on May 23, 2009, the North reported on his death via state-run media outlets and sent a letter of condolence in the name of its leader Kim Jong-il.

While Kim Dae-jung was credited for holding the first historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 in Pyongyang, it was in fact Kim Young-sam who pushed for a top-level meeting with his counterpart Kim Il Sung six years earlier.

The two sides agreed to hold what would have been the first summit from July 25 to 27 in Pyongyang in 1994. But plans fell through when North Korean founder Kim Il Sung died of heart attack on July 8, 17 days before the scheduled talks.

Kim Young-sam later wrote in his memoirs that he was “shaken by the news of Kim Il Sung’s death” and lamented that a meeting that could have changed the course of history fell through.

While Pyongyang stayed mum on Kim’s funeral, it sent a letter of condolence to Mali’s president last Friday, expressing its sympathies for the loss of lives caused by a terrorist attack at a major hotel in the capital city of Bamako. The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday that Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, sent his condolences to Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in which Kim said his country “reaffirms its principle position against any acts of terrorism.”

The North also sent a message of condolences to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Nov. 17, four day after the Paris terror attacks by the Islamic State.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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