South Korea’s Park Geun-hye used her position as the director of a philanthropic organization to build channels of civic exchange with North Korea in 2002. During her term as president, however, Park has taken a hardline stance against Pyongyang in response to increased provocations. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI
SEOUL, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Letters to former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il from South Korean President Park Geun-hye are shedding light on how Park navigated inter-Korea relations during her years as a lawmaker.
The letters and draft documents, obtained by South Korean magazine Weekly Kyunghyang in March and October, are being considered again from a different perspective in the wake of the political scandal that has culminated in Park's impeachment and the trial of her influential friend Choi Soon-sil.
According to the Kyunghyang, some of the documents also show evidence Seoul's national intelligence service placed systematic "pressure" on Jean-Luc Valerio, the president of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company Korea, which led to an unexpected decision during Park's term to select next-generation fighter jets from EADS competitor Lockheed Martin.
In November, multiple South Korean press reports and opposition party politicians had claimed Choi influenced the decision to choose Lockheed Martin's F-35A fighter jets in 2013.
Lockheed Martin has since denied allegations that any of the company's executives met with Choi, or that the corruption suspect had any hand in a joint U.S.-South Korea decision to deploy the U.S. missile defense system THAAD, according to local newspaper Donga Ilbo.
The letters from Park the Kyunghyang obtained date from 2002-05, and some are written on letterhead from the Europe-Korea Foundation.
Park wrote the letters in an amicable tone, reflecting the atmosphere of an era before Pyongyang began testing nuclear weapons.
The documents also show evidence Park used her position as a lawmaker and as the director of the Europe-Korea Foundation to build channels of civic exchange with the North in 2002.
The visit was highly publicized at the time but little information about the four-hour meeting between Kim and Park has been disclosed.
The letters show Park had a strong interest in establishing a Pyongyang branch of the foundation and in bringing North Korea's Pochonbo electronic band to the South.
The Europe-Korea Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea. The latter organization was investigated by Seoul's spy agency in 2012, according to the Kyunghyang, possibly in connection to inter-Korea activities.