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(2nd LD) Moon recalls his late mother's hard but 'happy' life

Diplomacy 21:51 October 30, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with visits by political leaders, ambassadors in paras 12-14; ADDS photos)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday his mother was apparently anxious about him being at the center of a choppy political world.

The 92-year-old, Kang Han-ok, died Tuesday evening at a Busan hospital after suffering from an illness for a long time. Busan, about 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, is Moon's hometown.

In his first public message on her death, posted on his Facebook account, Moon said he had not met her often although he knew that the time for farewell was nearing.

He said, however, he was present at her "last departure with a comfortable face," along with other family members.

"Throughout her life, she missed her hometown where she couldn't go back, and she had a difficult life as all other mothers in this land. But she left the words, 'Even so, I was happy,'" Moon said. Kang hails from Hungnam, South Hamgyong Province, which is now in North Korea.

President Moon Jae-in sits adjacent to the funeral altar for his mother, Kang Han-ok, at Namcheon Catholic Cathedral in Busan on Oct. 30, 2019, in this photo provided by Cheong Wa Dae. Kang died of a chronic illness at a hospital in the southern city on Oct. 29. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The president said he had given her joy and honor at times, but he was not that good of a son in general.

Moon added his mother must have been concerned that he's standing in the midst of tumultuous local politics. Moon, a former human rights lawyer, entered politics in 2002 as a key member of Roh Moo-hyun's presidential election camp.

Moon said he plans to hold a Catholic funeral for her in accordance with her religious faith with his family and relatives only in attendance. The ritual is slated for Thursday.

A private mourning station has been established at Namcheon Catholic Cathedral in the port city.

President Moon Jae-in talks with leaders of South Korea's religious community at Namcheon Catholic Cathedral in Busan on Oct. 30, 2019, in this photo provided by Cheong Wa Dae. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

He politely asked Cheong Wa Dae, government officials and politicians not to make condolence calls or send flowers. He said he'd like them to focus instead on state affairs as usual.

Representatives from South Korea's seven major faiths visited the Busan cathedral and paid their respects to the deceased.

Top government officials and major political figures also offered their condolences there, including Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, Deputy Prime Minister Yoo Eun-hae, Sohn Hak-kyu, leader of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, Chung Dong-young, head of the minor opposition Party for Democracy and Peace, and Sim Sang-jung, head of the progressive Justice Party.

Later in the day, Hwang Kyo-ahn, chief of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, and the party's floor leader, Na Kyung-won, visited there.

The ambassadors of the United States, China, Russia and Japan also paid their respects at the cathedral in the afternoon.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang and Lee Hae-chan, head of the ruling Democratic Party, plan to attend the funeral mass to be held on Thursday morning.

President Moon Jae-in (R) greets Hwang Kyo-ahn, chief of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, at the funeral of Moon's mother, Kang Han-ok, at Namcheon Catholic Cathedral in Busan on Oct. 30, 2019. in this photo provided by Cheong Wa Dae. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Realistically, a Cheong Wa Dae official said, there's no cause or way to block such condolence visits by religious or political leaders.

Kang is survived by Moon and another son, as well as three daughters. Moon's father died of heart failure in 1978.

The president is taking a special leave and is expected to return to work this weekend. He's scheduled to leave for Bangkok on Sunday to attend an annual ASEAN-plus-three summit.

lcd@yna.co.kr
(END)

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