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Former first lady to travel on South Korean aircraft during Pyongyang visit

Lee Hee-ho’s decision is to be faxed to Pyongyang next week, a source close to the former first lady said on Friday.

By Elizabeth Shim
Former first lady to travel on South Korean aircraft during Pyongyang visit
South Korea’s former First Lady Lee Hee-ho is to travel to Pyongyang from August 5 to 8 and a source close to Lee said she is to travel on a South Korea aircraft. North Korea had offered an airliner from Pyongyang. File photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, July 24 (UPI) -- South Korea's former First Lady Lee Hee-ho is to travel to Pyongyang on a South Korean aircraft, a source close to Lee said on Friday.

An unidentified contact at the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center provided the update just two weeks after travel plans for the former first lady were made public, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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Kim Sung-jae, the director of the Peace Center, had said on July 6 the 92-year-old Lee is to visit a children's hospital, a maternity home and a nursery in Pyongyang – but would not confirm whether Lee would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim had said Pyongyang was offering to send a North Korean aircraft, if needed, to transport Lee and her aides to North Korea.

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But on Friday South Korea press reported Lee is to travel on a South Korean plane, and the trip is to be financed by the Peace Center.

A South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman said Lee and her group have not sought government help in funding the trip.

Lee's decision is to be faxed to Pyongyang next week, according to Yonhap's source at the Peace Center.

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On Friday, South Korea's National Assembly Vice-Speaker Lee Seok-hyeon said he hoped Lee's visit would pave a road to South-North dialogue, and that she would return with four South Korean nationals in North Korea custody.

"At present [South Korean NYU student] Joo Won-moon and three other South Korean nationals are being detained in the North. I hope [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un shows big determination and sends them home on the plane when First Lady Lee Hee-ho returns from her visit," Lee said, according to South Korean news outlet Sisa Week.

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