Lee Hui-ho, widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung departed Seoul on Wednesday morning and arrived in Pyongyang.
She is expected to stay in Pyongyang until this Saturday, visiting a maternity welfare center and kindergarten in the city. Whether she will meet with Kim Jong Un has not been confirmed, according to Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, which is coordinating her visit.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Lee’s arrival.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MoU), while permitting her visit, has highlighted that it is private matter.
“As this visit is private one, the official presentation will be conducted by Kim Dae-jung Peace Center,” MoU vice spokesperson Park Soo-jin said at the regular press briefing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the MoU has built a hotline for the center to use as an emergency connection.
“The Kim Dae-jung Peace Center requested the hotline in order to maintain the necessary communications during the visit. Now the connection has been built and will provide communications in case of need,” the vice spokesperson said.
Lee is being accompanied on her trip by 18 people, including officials from the center and the staff of Friend of Love, the relief NGO founded by Lee and her personal doctor.
Some New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) party leaders and former officials from Kim Dae-jung’s administration were not permitted to take part in the trip. This includes lawmaker Park Ji-won, leader of unification policy during President Kim’s term, who appeared on a radio program on Wednesday afternoon and criticized the MoU for not allowing politicians to visit, calling the ministry “not honest.”
Some conservative organizations protested at the Gimpo International Airport as Lee’s plane prepared for departure, saying that Lee should pursue an apology from North Korea – particularly for the bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, which killed four South Koreans – or “don’t come back to the South.”
South Korean citizens could also be seen taking pictures of a rare sight, a list of flights that included Pyongyang.
North Korea’s state-run news site Uriminzokkiri on July 8 published the Choson Asia Pacific Ocean Peace Committee’s response to South Korean media that have speculated that Lee was invited to fly in to advertise the new airport in Pyongyang.
“We suggested a flight as the highway connecting Pyongyang and Kaesong is under construction, and the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center totally agreed to it,” the discourse reads.
Lee’s visit has been planned since last year. In December 2014, Kim Jong Un invited Lee to visit via a handwritten letter. Lee met Kim Jong Un in 2011 at the condolence ceremony for former DPRK leader Kim Jong Il.
Featured image: Kim Dae-jung Peace Center Archives
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