Park Chung Hee's Daughter Goes to North; Kim Jong Il Meets Ms. Park
In a dramatic move, Ms. Park Keun Hye, the daughter of the assassinated South Korean president Park Chung Hee and a member of the South's National Assembly, made an unofficial visit to Pyongyang from May 11 to 14 at the invitation of the North's National Reconciliation Council. Park's surprise visit came in a complex political situation in the South as she left the conservative first opposition Grand National Party and started bitterly condemning its leader Ri Hoe Chang, whom Pyongyang has branded as an "anti-nation, anti-reunification, pro-American traitor." It also came as the presidential election race is getting heated toward December when a new president is to replace Kim Dae Jung, advocate of a reconciliatory "sunshine policy." Ms. Park, who is in the middle of forming a new political party as chairperson of the Preparatory Committee for Founding the "Union for the Future Korea," is believed to be among runners for the race sooner or later.
Exceptionally Warm Hospitality
Noteworthy is the warm and special hospitality Pyongyang extended to her. In a rare manner, she took a chartered plane provided by the North from Beijing to Pyongyang, and returned to Seoul by way of Panmunjom, the heavily armed truce village. During her four-day visit, Ms. Park met the North's responsible officials concerned including Kim Yong Sun, secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Committee and chairman of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee; Kim Yong Dae, chairman of the National Reconciliation Council; Rim Dong Ok, first vice department director the WPK Central Committee; Kim Wan Su of the WPK Central Committee; and An Kyong Ho, director of the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. She also met and had talks with leading women officials including Hong Son Ok, chairperson of the Korean Women's Society; Hong Il Chon, rector of Kim Hyong Jik University of Education, and others. Included in her itinerary were visits to the Pyongyang Embroidery Institute, a kindergarten, the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren's Palace, the Pyongyang metro, Tower of the Juche Idea, Arch of Triumph, King Tongmyong's Mausoleum, and Kaesong City.
Park Keun Hye dancing with a little dancer of the Mangyongdae Student Palace in Pyongyang
The media of the North covered her every move and televised her activities each day, even in extra midnight reports.
A reception given in honor of the South Korean independent lawmaker and her party on the evening of May 12 showed the extent to which Pyongyang attached significance to her visit to Pyongyang. Kim Yong Dae said in a speech that the occasion showed that all those, who stand for the nation and are concerned about the country's future, could pool their efforts regardless of differing political views. "Politicians in the North and the South sitting together like this," he said, "once again testify to the significance and vitality of the historic June 15 joint declaration and this is associated with the loving care shown by Kim Jong Il for paving an avenue for great national unity."
Pointing out that the principles of national reunification were laid down in the historic July 4, 1972 joint statement, which came into being when the South was under the rule of strongman Park Chung Hee, her father, Park Keun Hye said: "I feel a sense of mission for our generation living today to materialize the spirit of the statement," and stressed that the publication of the June 15, 2000 joint declaration provided her with an opportunity to visit Pyongyang, and called upon both sides of Korea to join efforts to implement the two landmark documents and thus contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula and a unified development of the nation, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Kim Jong Il Meets Park
Highlighting her visit to the North, Kim Jong Il met and had a tete-a-tete talk with Park Keun Hye for an hour, and gave a dinner in honor of her on May 13. Kim Jong Il warmly welcomed Ms. Park and had a cordial conversation, the KCNA said.
Back home in Seoul, Park became a focus of the South's media reporting, with her meeting with Kim Jong Il as the central point. She told reporters on May 14 that the North Korean leader "reaffirmed his willingness to visit Seoul at an appropriate time" in return for Kim Dae Jung's Pyongyang visit, although he made no mention of the timing. She said that Kim Jong Il promised to send the North痴 national soccer team to the South for a friendly match in September and was also positive concerning an inter-Korean joint investigation of possible "cracks" in the Mt. Kumgang Dam, which, Seoul argues, are threatening to cause floods in the South, yet Pyongyang claims the story is totally groundless.
She also said that Park and Kim Jong Il agreed to set up a liaison office at an appropriate spot on the east coast to provide better access for separated families in the North and the South, as the details for relinking the long-severed railroads are settled. "He also agreed on a plan to form a working-level group including Russia and other European nations to work on constructing inter-Korean railways," she was quoted as saying.
Ms. Park's recent tour of North Korea was associated with the Korea-European Union, of which she is an executive. Partial credit for Ms. Park's meeting with Kim Jong Il reportedly goes to Jean-Jacques Grauhar, secretary general of the EU Chamber of Commerce in South Korea who has personal connections with Pyongyang. Grauhar spent seven years as a consultant in Pyongyang from 1986 to 1992 and has been traveling back and forth from Pyongyang to Seoul for business and guided European companies considering investing in the North. He accompanied Ms. Park on her trip to Pyongyang this time. "North Korean leaders become very serious when it comes to restoring the nation's economy," Grauhar said. He explained that the latest encounter added momentum to stalled inter-Korean relations and to what the EU has done for Pyongyang since mid-1995 in terms of economic cooperation. "The biggest achievement was winning the North Korean leader's approval to establish a training center for North Korean economists in Beijing to introduce a market economy to the country and produce a professional labor force to operate companies and factories in the future," Joongang Ilbo quoted him as saying. Park visited Pyongyang in her capacity as head of a Europe-Korea Foundation.
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