19 Aug 2009

North Korea pays tribute to Kim Dae-jung

8:45 pm on 19 August 2009

North Korea has sent condolences for the death of the former South Korean president, Kim Dae-jung, the North's official news agency has said.

Pyongyang also said it would like to send a delegation to pay respects at Mr Kim's funeral in Seoul.

Mr Kim made the first ever visit by a South Korean president to the North in 2000, as part of his so-called "Sunshine Policy", the BBC reports.

Relations between the countries have been poor since President Lee Myung-bak took office in the South last year.

But the North has said it wants to ease border restrictions and re-open a joint industrial park near the border.

North Korea's state news agency, KCNA, carried the brief message from the North's leader, Kim Jong-il.

"I express my deep condolences to Mrs Ri Hui Ho and other bereaved family members," he said.

"Though he passed away to our regret, the feats he performed to achieve national reconciliation and realize the desire for reunification will remain long with the nation."

A long-time aide to the former president also said Kim Jong-il had sent condolences and had announced he wanted to send envoys to the funeral.

Seoul's unification ministry, which handles cross-border relations, said it had not received word of the delegation from Pyongyang.

However, President Lee Myung-bak's office said it would not object to the visit.

No date has been set for Mr Kim's funeral.