ROK private delegations visit DPRK

Updated: 2011-12-26 10:13


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ROK private delegations visit DPRK

Former first lady Lee Hee-ho (L), the widow of late Republic of Korea's President Kim Dae-jung, and Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun are escorted by officials as they leave for Pyongyang in order to pay their respects over the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's leader Kim Jong-il's death, at the CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) office, just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, Dec 26, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]

DORASAN, the Republic of Korea - Two private delegations, led respectively by the Republic of Korea's former first lady and the chairwoman of Hyundai Group, crossed into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Monday to pay condolences over the death of DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-il.

A 13-member delegation led by Lee Hee-ho, the widow of the late former president Kim Dae-jung, and another five-member delegation led by Hyun Jeong-eun, the wife of the business group's late chairman Chung Mong-hun, left for Pyongyang for a two-day trip.

"I think it's the right thing to pay condolences as Kim Jong-il sent a condolence delegation to Seoul when my husband passed away in August 2009," Lee said in a written message read by her aide before crossing the border.

"I hope that our trip to the DPRK will help improve relations between the ROK and the DPRK,"she said.

The ROK government granted special permission for the two women to make the trip because the DPRK sent separate condolence delegations to Seoul after the deaths of their husbands.

The two delegations, however, will not attend the funeral of Kim Jong-il, scheduled for Wednesday, and no government officials, politicians or other prominent figures were included in the groups.

They are scheduled to hold a luncheon meeting with some DPRK's officials in Pyongyang later Monday before paying their respects to Kim, according to the Unification Ministry, which handles inter- Korean affairs.

Last week, the ROK government expressed its sympathy to the people of the DPRK following the death of their leader on December 17, which was announced two days later.

However, it decided not to send an official delegation to the funeral. After Seoul's decision, the DPRK has denounced the south for not sending an official delegation and banning its people from visiting the DPRK to express their condolences.