Friday, December 23, 2011

South Korean Groups Cleared for Border Crossing into North Korea to pay Respect to Kim Jong Il - 23rd Dec 2011

North Korea said it would open its border near the town of Kaesong for South Koreans to enter and pay their respects to deceased leader Kim Jong Il, clearing a land route for symbolic visits by two high-profile delegations with links to the North.

Seoul has approved groups led by the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the head of Hyundai Group to go to the North. Kim Dae-jung, who died in 2009, and the Hyundai conglomerate were key players in the so-called "Sunshine Policy" years during which liberal South Korean leaders attempted to improve relations with Pyongyang through political engagement and financial support.

A summit in 2000 between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang led to the creation of an industrial park in North Korea that remains a major source of foreign-currency income for the North. Meanwhile, the Hyundai conglomerate started a tourism program at a mountain resort in North Korea in 1998 that attracted more than 400,000 visitors from the South each year until Seoul suspended trips after a South Korean tourist was shot and killed by a North Korean soldier at the resort in 2008.

It's unclear whether either group will get to meet with new North Korean leader Kim Jong Eun or whether they will actually attend the funeral for Kim Jong Il. Local media reports have said the delegations won't stay in North Korea for the funeral Dec. 28 or the last day of national mourning Dec. 29. Read More