Aims to continue humanitarian and cultural exchange efforts in the North
Religious leaders in South Korea extended condolences to the North over the death of Kim Jong-il this week, saying that religious exchanges across the border should continue. Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju told journalists yesterday that “Kim’s death should not deteriorate the strained relations” between North and South. He added that he hoped both governments would “take a step back” and seek reconciliation, peace and co-existence. Kim Jong-il died over the weekend of an apparent heart attack, according to North Korea’s official news agency. A representative of the Korean Bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People said yesterday that it would continue “its humanitarian aid to the North Korean people” and expressing worries that the death of Kim Jong-ill could cause more suffering for them. Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said yesterday that the South Korean government expressed its “sympathy” to the people of North Korea but had decided not to send an official delegation. Yu added however that the wife of late President Kim Dae-jung and family members of the late former chairman of the Hyundai Group, Chung Mong-hun, would be allowed to make a private visit to the North in response to a previous reciprocal delegation from the North. Kim Dae-jung visited North Korea for the first inter-Korean summit with Kim Jong-ill in 2000. Archbishop Kim said “when an enemy pays respects over his/her counterpart’s death, it can help reverse decades of enmity.” According to the national daily Joongang Ilbo, a poll of 710 Koreans published yesterday showed 48.7 percent of respondents said the government or civic groups should pay official respects over Kim’s death, while 49.9 percent were against sending official respects.
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