Gov't Says Civilians Can Send Condolences to North

      December 22, 2011 11:02

      The government will allow individuals and civic organizations to send condolences to North Korea over the death of the regime's leader Kim Jong-il, it said on Wednesday. But its decision to ban them from visiting the North to pay tribute in person remains unchanged.

      "We have decided to allow civilians to send their condolence to North Korea in the form of faxes or mails," Choi Boh-seon, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Unification, said during Wednesday's briefing. "But they will need to apply to the ministry for permission to contact North Korea. We will accept applications if there are no grounds to deny them."

      The government also reconfirmed that it will allow the family members of former President Kim Dae-jung and former Hyundai Group chairman Chung Mong-heon
      to visit North Korea.

      Both men played a key role in inter-Korean rapprochement during their lifetimes, with the two Kim's staging an historic meeting in 2000 and Hyundai having business ties with the country. Pyongyang sent delegations when Chung and Kim died in 2003 and 2009.

      As such, Kim's widow and former first lady Lee Hee-ho will be permitted to head to the North to pay her respects, as well as Chung's widow and current Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, the ministry said.

      However, the government will not let politicians including Park Ji-won, a Democratic Party lawmaker who served as chief of staff under Kim Dae-jung, cross the border at this sensitive time.

      "We are currently discussing details with the families of Kim Dae-jung and Chung Mong-heon for their possible visits to North Korea. We are hoping to make this happen before Kim Jong-il's funeral on Dec. 28," said a government official.

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