South Korea Delegates Aim to Strengthen Ties With North Korea

As Kim Jong-un solidifies his status as North Korea's newest leader, prominent South Korean personalities appear to be making an effort for both countries to begin new relations on the right note.

Despite the controversies surrounding the fallen North Korean dictator, Lee Hee-Ho, widow of late South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung, and Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jung-Eun, each paid their respects to late leader Kim Jong-il and expressed condolences to new leader Kim Jong-un, Al Jazeera reported. Kim Jong-un is the third son Jong-il.

"I hope that our visit to the North will help improve South-North relations," Lee told reporters before crossing the border that divides the two countries.

The two women have close ties to the north. Lee's late husband had constructed engagement policies and a 2000 summit to improve relations with North Korea, The Associated Press reported.

"When my husband passed away in August 2009, chairman Kim Jong-il sent a condolence delegation to Seoul. I think it is a duty to make a condolence call," she said in the statement, according to

The AP reported that Jung's late husband also had close ties to the North.

Despite the symbolism of the gesture, it is unclear what was actually discussed and who participated in the conversation. According to Al-Jazeera, the two women met with “unidentified officials” for a lunch meeting in Pyongyang.

The funeral for Kim Jong-il is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 28. However, the delegates are expected to leave before the funeral. According to Brian Myers, a professor at South Korea's Dongseo University, that might be to prevent any cultural misunderstandings.

"They don't really want a sizeable South Korean delegation, not just because it would cause logistic problems, but also because they would be unlikely to behave in the way expected of them," he said, according to "I think the North Koreans would expect any Korean visitors to Pyongyang to be just as distraught, or at least to put on an act and pretend to be as distraught, as the locals. And I don't think the South Koreans would be likely to do that."

New leader Kim Jong-un has been granted more titles daily, with state media showering him with adoration and praise since it was announced he would take over the reins of the country. However, little is known about the new leader.

"There's a lot more talk about people's admiration for the young man than there is actual talk about the young man himself," Myers said. "We're getting repeated avowals of unity and loyalty to the young man, and we're still not seeing an official biography of him. So I think average North Korean is asking himself just what makes this person so uniquely qualified to rule."

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