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Widow of SKorea President Kim Dae-jung confirmed to visit Pyongyang

The invitation to the former first lady to visit came directly from Kim Jong Un, and North Korea is showing unusual willingness to accommodate Lee Hee-ho, who previously served as first lady.

By Elizabeth Shim
Widow of SKorea President Kim Dae-jung confirmed to visit Pyongyang
South Korea’s former First Lady Lee Hee-ho is to travel to Pyongyang from August 5 to 8. File photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, July 6 (UPI) -- South Korea's former First Lady Lee Hee-ho is confirmed to travel to North Korea in early August, a representative from the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center said Monday.

Kim Sung-jae, the director of the Peace Center named after the former South Korean president, said the 92-year-old Lee is to visit a children's hospital, a maternity home and a nursery in Pyongyang, according to Voice of America.

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Plans for Lee to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, however, were not confirmed, but Kim told South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo that his North Korea counterpart did not rule out the possibility during preliminary discussions on Monday in Kaesong, North Korea.

The invitation to the former first lady to visit came directly from Kim Jong Un, and North Korea is showing unusual willingness to accommodate Lee, who had canceled previous trips for health reasons.

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Kim Sung-jae said Pyongyang has offered an air route from Seoul to Pyongyang exclusively for Lee's visit. Kim's North Korea counterpart Maeng Kyong Il said Pyongyang was willing to send an Air Koryo aircraft, if needed, to transport Lee and her aides to North Korea.

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During her visit, Kim Jong Un has requested Lee stay at North Korea's State Guest House Baek Hwa Won, where South Korean President Kim Dae-jung was housed during the inter-Korea summit of 2000.

Maeng told Kim on Monday that North Korea is always ready for talks – and that it's the South Korean government that should mend its ways.

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"If it does, there are no reasons not to talk," said Maeng, according to Kim Sung-jae.

Chang Yong-seok, an analyst at Seoul National University's Institute for Peace and Unification, said the Lee visit would be used by North Korea to bolster Kim Jong Un's image as a leader who favors unification.

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