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North Korea calls Hyundai Group 'first love'

By Wooyoung Lee
Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun (L) arrives at an inter-Korean immigration office in the eastern border town of Goseong on Friday, to leave for the Mount Kumgang resort on North Korea's eastern coast. Photo by Yonhap
Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun (L) arrives at an inter-Korean immigration office in the eastern border town of Goseong on Friday, to leave for the Mount Kumgang resort on North Korea's eastern coast. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il called Hyundai Group the "first love" in the North Korea's relationship with the South, a North Korean propaganda outlet said Friday.

"We started the first love with Hyundai far earlier than with the South Korean government," Kim was quoted as saying when he met a Hyundai Group chairwoman in 2005, according to Uriminzokkiri.

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Kim also called the founder and chair of the Hyundai Group "pioneers paving the way for reconciliation of the Korean people."

The report introduced remarks by the former leader, related to decades-long business initiatives by the Hyundai Group with the North, to mark the Friday's visit by the company's current chairwoman.

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Hyundai Group chief Hyun Jung-eun headed to the North to attend a memorial service for her late husband and former chairman Chung Mong-hun.

Hyundai Group built and operated a tourist resort in the North Korea's scenic Mount Kumkang. More than 1,950,000 South Korean tourists traveled to the mountain from the late 1990s to 2008, according to Korea Economic Daily. Trips were suspended after a South Korean woman was shot by a North Korean soldier in 2008.

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The memorial service is being resumed in three years since the last one in 2015.

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Her late husband Chung died on Aug. 4, 2003, when he fell from the 12th floor of Hyundai Asan headquarters. The death at the time was ruled a suicide and came after Chung was facing trial on charges of secretly sending at least $100 million in funds from Seoul to the North, ahead of a landmark inter-Korea summit in June 2000.

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