August 20, 2009 07:36
The state funeral for former President Kim Dae-jung will be held Sunday following six days of mourning, when he will be laid to rest at the National Cemetery in Dongjak-dong in southern Seoul.
Only one state funeral has been held since the founding of the Republic of Korea, that of Park Chung-hee in October 1979. But Park was assassinated while he was president, whereas this will be the first state funeral for a former president.
The government in an extraordinary Cabinet meeting Wednesday night decided to give Kim a state funeral. It takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday in front of the National Assembly. All flags will fly at half mast. Prime Minister Han Seung-soo will head the organizing committee.
The government recommended a public funeral citing the precedents of former Presidents Choi Kyu-ha and Roh Moo-hyun, but Kim's family and the main opposition Democratic Party demanded a state funeral instead. The government was unable to reach a decision until Wednesday afternoon, but President Lee Myung-bak accepted the demand, according to a government source.
Former first lady Lee Hee-ho thanked the government, according to DP lawmaker Park Jie-won. "The government decided to hold a state funeral by respecting the wishes of the bereaved family, to honor the achievements of the late former president and to promote social unity," Minister of Public Administration and Security Lee Dal-gon was quoted as saying in the Cabinet meeting. "A six-day mourning period was agreed in light of the difficult economic conditions facing the nation."
By Wednesday night, some 10,000 people had visited Yonsei Severance Hospital to pay their last respects, and 10,000 more offered their condolences at an altar set up in front of Seoul City Hall. Tens of thousands of others paid their last respects at 115 memorial altars set up across the country.
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