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S. Korea informs N. Korea of death of former first lady

All Headlines 17:37 June 11, 2019

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea informed North Korea on Tuesday that the wife of late President Kim Dae-jung has passed away through their joint liaison office in the North's border town of Kaesong, the unification ministry said.

Lee Hee-ho died on Monday at the age of 96 after battling liver cancer. She is known for her life-long support for Kim's efforts to bring democracy to South Korea and make peace with North Korea.

"We informed the North Korean side of the news via the joint liaison office early in the day at the request of the funeral organizers for late Lee Hee-ho," the ministry said in a text message to reporters.

Expectations are growing that North Korea could send a delegation to pay tribute at Lee's funeral on Friday, which observers expect could serve as a stimulus to move the stalled inter-Korean relations forward.

North Korea has a history of sending delegations to the South to express condolences over the death of figures who contributed to inter-Korean relations.

Lee accompanied her husband to Pyongyang in 2000 for the historic first inter-Korean summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. She made two more trips to the North in 2011 and 2015.

When Kim, Lee's husband and the architect of the "sunshine policy" of engaging North Korea, died in 2009, then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sent a condolence message to the bereaved family the next day and sent a delegation of special envoys to his funeral.

A unification ministry official earlier told reporters that North Korea has yet to express an intention to send a delegation for Lee's funeral.

The state-awarded Grand Mugunghwa Medal, the country's highest order of civil merit, is placed at an altar in Seoul on June 11, 2019, for Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung. Lee died the previous day at age 96. (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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