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Former South Korean first lady arrives in North Korea

The 93-year-old Lee Hee-ho said she is visiting Pyongyang in hopes of treating the pains and wounds of national division.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Former South Korean First Lady Lee Hee-ho at Kimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea on Wednesday. Lee arrived in Pyongyang in the afternoon and said she is delivering a message of peace. Photo by Yonhap
Former South Korean First Lady Lee Hee-ho at Kimpo Airport in Seoul, South Korea on Wednesday. Lee arrived in Pyongyang in the afternoon and said she is delivering a message of peace. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday afternoon to begin a visit that could ease ongoing tensions on the peninsula.

Lee Hee-ho told South Korean press at Seoul's Kimpo Airport that she is embarking on the four-day trip with a message of peace.

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"I go to Pyongyang in hopes of treating the pains and wounds of national division, and in hopes the people [of North and South Korea] would resume peaceful exchanges in the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation of the June 15 declaration," Lee said, according to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

During his presidency Kim Dae-jung met with former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000 and together they signed the June 15th Joint Declaration that committed Seoul and Pyongyang to easing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The BBC reported the 93-year-old Lee's visit is to include stops at a maternity clinic, an orphanage and a children's hospital in Pyongyang. But Lee's spokesman did not confirm whether the former first lady would hold a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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A pro-Pyongyang news outlet in Japan reported North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee Vice-Chairman Maeng Kyong Il "warmly received" Lee at Sunan Airport -- where a ceremony recently was held in commemoration of a newly built terminal.

Yonhap reported Maeng is a high-ranking North Korean official who visited South Korea with other top Pyongyang officials in 2009 to attend the funeral of Kim Dae-jung.

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