December 21, 2011 09:21
The government on Tuesday expressed its condolences on the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. "We hope North Korea will soon return to stability and can cooperate to achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula," it said in a statement after a ministerial meeting chaired by President Lee Myung-bak.
The message had apparently been vetted by Seoul's allies and was not addressed to Kim's son and heir Jong-un but to the North Korean people, a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
The government decided to send no official delegation to the North, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said, but will allow the families of former president Kim Dae-jung and Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-heon to go. Pyongyang sent delegations when Kim and Chung died in 2009 and 2003.
Lee Hee-ho, the widow of the former president and Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun are expected to travel to Pyongyang soon.
The U.S. issued a statement in a similar tone as Seoul on the same day. "We are deeply concerned with the wellbeing of the North Korean people and our thoughts and prayers are with them during these difficult times," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a condolence visit to the North Korean Embassy in Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also invited Kim Jong-un, whom it called the "great leader."
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