Ninety-two-year-old widow of late South Korean President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung on Wednesday left for a four-day visit to North Korea.
There are hopes among some South Koreans that Lee Hee-ho’s trip could help ease continuing tension between the rivals. Aides say it is not clear if Lee will have a chance to meet top North Korean officials, such as leader Kim Jong Un, before returning to Seoul on Saturday.
“Lee hopes that her visit paves the way for more dialogues, exchanges and cooperation” between the Koreas, Kim Sung-jae, a former South Korean culture minister who is part of Lee’s delegation, told reporters at a Seoul airport before boarding a flight to Pyongyang.
Kim Dae-jung, who died in 2009, was a strong supporter of rapprochement with Pyongyang and held landmark inter-Korean summit talks in 2000 with Kim Jong Un’s father and late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. He won the Nobel Peace Prize later in 2000 for his efforts to reconcile with North Korea.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye offered North Korea a ‘door of opportunity’ as she flagged off restoration work on Wednesday on a railway line that could one day link both Koreas with Europe via the Trans-Siberian.
The work will focus on the South’s section of a disconnected inter-Korean railroad that once linked central Seoul with the North Korean eastern city of Wonsan.
“The doors of opportunity stand open for North Korea to join in this process,” Park said.