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South Korea allows private condolences for Kim

world Updated: Dec 21, 2011 08:29 IST
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The South Korean government will allow private groups to send condolence messages to North Korea following the death of its leader Kim Jong-Il, Seoul's unification ministry said Wednesday.

The latest conciliatory gesture came a day after Seoul expressed sympathy to the North Korean people for Kim's death, despite high cross-border tensions.

The ministry, which by law must authorise all contacts between South Koreans and the North, will "basically allow" such messages, said spokesman Choi Boh-Seon.

"Our stance is that we will authorise the requests unless there is a special reason (not to do so)," Choi told reporters.

He said four groups seeking to send such messages include Hyundai Asan and the Roh Moo-Hyun Foundation, named in memory of the South's late former president who met Kim in the second inter-Korea summit in 2007.

The South on Tuesday also suspended a plan to display Christmas lights near the border, which the communist North had criticised as "psychological warfare".

Seoul will not send official delegates to Pyongyang for Kim's funeral on December 28. But it has allowed Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Chung-Eun and the family of the late president Kim Dae-Jung to visit.

Kim Dae-Jung held the first summit with the North's leader in 2000 while Hyundai pioneered cross-border business projects.

Hyun and Lee Hee-Ho, the widow of Kim Dae-Jung, are now taking formal steps to visit Pyongyang.

The North's state media announced Monday that leader Kim had died on Saturday of a heart attack at age 69. It declared a period of national mourning until December 29.

Cross-border ties have been icy since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010 and cut most trade and aid with its impoverished neighbour.

The North angrily denied involvement in the sinking. But it shelled a South Korean border island in November 2010, killing four people and briefly stoking fears of war.