August 20, 2009 10:04
North Korea's decision to send a delegation to the funeral of former President Kim Dae-jung carries considerable symbolic weight in inter-Korean relations, which have been going through a new ice age. Moreover, coming at the time of joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise, which the North considers as "an invasion exercise," the gesture must be considered a maximum courtesy.
The upcoming North Korean delegation of special envoys to pay tribute to the late President Kim Dae-jung will be the first visit to the South by North Korean officials during the Lee Myung-bak administration. Since it closed the border to South Korean government officials in March last year, one month after the Lee administration's inauguration, the North has only permitted visits for working-level talks about the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Pyongyang said the delegation will be composed of six members including a secretary and a department director of the Workers' Party Central Committee. It will be headed by Kim Ki-nam, the secretary, and include Kim Yang-gon, the director of North Korea's United Front Department, which is in charge of South Korea policy.
Pyongyang is desperate to find a way around recent harsh sanctions by the international committee, which according to a government official here means the visit "has political aims beyond mere condolences."
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