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Kim Jong Un meets S. Korean visitors

Kim Jong Un meets S. Korean visitors
China's state television shows footage of Kim Jong-un looking at his father's, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, body laying in state in Pyongyang December 20, 2011. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in Pyongyang, the Seoul government said.

Kim met with Lee Hee-ho, the elderly widow of the former South Korean president, and with Hyun Jeong-un, chairwoman of the Hyundai Group, both of whom traveled Monday to North Korea along with a 17-member South Korean group to pay respects to Kim's father Kim Jong Il, who died Dec. 17, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

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Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of Kim Jong Il, has been designated as successor to his father, who had been the leader of the isolated, Communist country for 17 years.

The meeting with the two prominent South Koreans was the first such by the new North Korean leader.

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Lee and Hyun expressed their deep condolences and sympathy over the death of Kim Jon Il and the "Vice Chairman Kim expressed his deep gratitude," the North's official KCNA news agency reported.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said Lee and Hyun later Monday paid respects to Kim Jong Il lying in state, Chosun Ilbo reported.

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The funeral is set for Wednesday but no foreign delegation has been accepted.

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The late former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to bring about reconciliation between the two Koreas, CNN reported. The Hyundai Group has investments in the North.

Prior to leaving for the North, Lee had said in a statement she hoped the visit would help improve North and South relations.

The visit of the South Korean group comes at a time when the world is waiting to see whether the young Kim, about whom little is known, would be able to consolidate his power in the nuclear-armed North Korea, where the military remains powerful.

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North Korean media have referred to the young Kim as the "supreme commander." He is likely to become general secretary of the ruling Worker's Party, which would make him chairman of the party's Central Military Commission.

South Korea is seeking to ensure the transition process is smooth in North Korea so there are no new tensions on the Korea Peninsula. The Seoul government, however, has decided against sending an official delegation to pay respects to Kim Jong Il, even though Pyongyang had sent such delegations to South Korea on the deaths of former president Kim Dae-jung and former Hyundai chairman.

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