Kim Jong-un Sends Wreath But No Officials to Ex-1st Lady's Funeral

  • By Kim Myong-song, Kim Kyeong-pil

    June 13, 2019 10:28

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday sent a wreath and a letter of condolence to the family of former first lady Lee Hee-ho, who died Monday aged 97.

    "The sacrifices and efforts of first lady Lee Hee-ho and former President Kim Dae-jung to promote reconciliation, unity, peace and unification are serving as a valuable foundation for reunification and peace," he wrote in the letter.

    But instead of sending a delegation to the funeral, he had his sister Kim Yo-jong deliver the wreath and letter to South Korean officials in the border truce village of Panmunjom.

    North Korea leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong (right) delivers a wreath for the funeral of former first lady Lee Hee-ho to national security adviser Chung Eui-yong (left) and lawmaker Park Jie-won in the border truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday. /Courtesy of the Ministry of Unification

    Still, the gesture apparently stirred high hopes in the South Korean government that there is room for a resumption of cross-border dialogue.

    When North Korea announced its plan to send the wreath at the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong on Wednesday morning, Seoul went into overdrive and sent national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho and Park Jie-won, a vice chairman of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, to pick it up. They briefly met Kim Yo-jong before spiriting their precious cargo back to Seoul.

    But the fact that North Korea did not send a delegation to the funeral suggests it is reluctant to resume cross-border dialogue after it cut off all communication following the failed summit with the U.S. in Hanoi earlier this year. It seems to believe that it has nothing to gain from engaging with Seoul.

    Conservative critics complained that Seoul's display of servility is unlikely to garner any respect from the North.

    Meanwhile, mourners continued to pay they last respects to Lee. Former first lady Lee Soon-ja, the wife of disgraced ex-President Chun Doo-hwan and former president Kim Young-sam's son Hyon-chol also paid their respects.

    Other prominent visitors to the memorial altar included former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Chinese Ambassador Qiu Guohong and EU Ambassador Michael Reiterer. 

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