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(LEAD) S. Korea not to ask ex-first lady to deliver gov't message to N. Korea

All Headlines 17:45 August 03, 2015

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 5-8)

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- The Unification Ministry said Monday it is not considering asking a former first lady to deliver a government message on inter-Korean relations to North Korea when she visits there this week.

Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, plans to visit North Korea from Wednesday to Saturday by low-budget local plane for humanitarian purposes. The 93-year-old Lee was the South's first lady during Kim's five-year tenure until 2003.

The ministry said it is not considering asking Lee to convey a special message to the North on the Seoul government's behalf when she visits.

"As Lee will visit the North in a private capacity, the government is not considering sending a special message to the North," Park Soo-jin, the deputy spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry, said in a regular press briefing. "Government officials will also not accompany Lee."

The Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, the organizer for the trip, said that North Korea sent a letter earlier in the day to confirm its invitation of the 19-member delegation to the North.

The center said that it would disclose the delegation details on the day of departure, so that there would be no misunderstandings regarding the trip.

In early July, the North threatened to cancel Lee's visit if Seoul continued to make provocations against Pyongyang.

The delegation reportedly does not include high-profile politicians or former government officials such as opposition lawmaker Park Jie-won and former Unification Minister Lim Dong-won. South Korean journalists will also not be allowed to accompany the delegation to cover Lee's trip.

Lee's visit is raising expectations that it will help ease the strained inter-Korean ties, as the two countries are to mark the 70th anniversary of their liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule this year.


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