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(4th LD) S. Koreans return home after meeting Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang

All Headlines 15:55 December 27, 2011

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout to UPDATE with comment by Hyundai chief)

DORASAN, South Korea, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- Two high-profile South Korean delegations returned home Tuesday after a rare trip to Pyongyang to pay tribute to the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun and Lee Hee-ho, the widow of late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, met with North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un and expressed deep condolences over the demise of his father.

"I did not have a chance to talk about many issues as I only offered condolences," Hyun said at a news conference soon after crossing the heavily fortified border back to the South.

It marked Kim's first encounter with South Koreans since his father suddenly died of heart failure on Dec. 17.

Hyun and Lee traveled to Pyongyang Monday ahead of a state funeral for Kim set for Wednesday.

Hyun and Lee also met with Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and "expressed deep condolences" over Kim's death, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported earlier Tuesday.

Hyun said she did not discuss any special issues with the North's ceremonial head of state.

Hyun and Lee briefly toured an industrial complex in a North Korean border city before crossing back to South Korea.

The tour of the complex seems to represent the South Koreans' commitment to further developing inter-Korean exchange and cooperation, despite lingering tensions.

The complex, which marries South Korean capital and technology with cheap labor from the North, is a key byproduct of a landmark summit between then-President Kim Dae-jung and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000. Hyundai is one of the key South Korean partners in the project.

The divided Koreas have kept the shared complex intact despite lingering tensions over the North's two deadly attacks on the South last year. The project serves as a key legitimate cash cow for North Korea.

The trip comes as North Korea is ratcheting up its propaganda campaign to ensure the smooth transition of power in the isolated country, following the former leader's sudden death.

A KCNA dispatch described Kim Jong-un as "sagacious leader of the party, state and army" of North Korea on Monday.

The state media also praised the successor son in his late 20s as "an outstanding leader and a great sun," while calling for the nation's 24 million citizens to faithfully follow his leadership.


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