N. Korean delegation arrives to honor Kim

As president of South Korea, Kim Dae-jung helped bridge differences with North Korea.
A North Korean delegation arrived in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday to mourn former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, best remembered for trying to foster better relations between the two neighbors, the South’s media reported.

“Mourning the passing of the late president Kim Dae-jung …” said the great white wreath adorned with a black ribbon delivered on behalf of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The six-members of the delegation bowed their heads in front of the altar set up in honor of the late president. They then paid their respects to the sons of the late president, South Korean television showed. Kim — who was president from 1998 to 2003 — died Tuesday of a heart failure. He had been admitted to Seoul’s Severance Hospital more than a month ago for pneumonia. The state funeral is to take place on Sunday. This is the first visit to the South by top-ranking North Korean officials since the February 2008 inauguration of conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported. The six-member North Korean delegation comprises key officials, including Kim Ki Nam, the Workers’ Party Central Committee secretary, and Kim Yang Gon, the party’s unification official. They are the architects of the North’s South Korean policy. They were expected to head to Kim’s memorial altar from the airport, pay their respects, lay a wreath sent by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and express their condolences to Kim’s widow. Shortly after he took office, Kim vigorously met political leaders of Western countries in a bid to gain support for his “Sunshine policy” to establish relations with the North.

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The watershed moment of Kim’s presidency came in June 2000, when he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, becoming the first South Korean leader to do so since the Korean War unofficially ended in 1953. Later that year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for trying to prod North Korea toward rapprochement.