North Korea, in a downward economic spiral of severe food shortages and economic deterioration, has indicated its eagerness to ease up on access to the economic complex at Kaesong (across the North-South line 40 miles north of Seoul), reopen tours to the ancient city of Kaesong, resume reunions of families divided by the Korean War, and possibly come to terms on resuming tours to Mount Kumkang.
Kim Jong-il, believed to have suffered a stroke a year ago and to be building up his youngest son as a possible successor, has made Kim Dae-jung's Aug. 18 death the basis for the latest in a series of moves toward easing rising tensions.
Kim Jong-il immediately sent a condolence message to Kim Dae-jung's widow, Lee Hee-ho, who was at her husband's bedside when he died. Kim Ki-nam, a secretary of the North's ruling Workers' Party, leading the delegation to Seoul, said he was "leaving with good feelings" after calling on Lee for half an hour at the Blue House, the center of power in South Korea.
A Blue House spokesman refrained, however, from revealing the exact contents of the message from the North Korean to the South Korean leader in view of what he said was its "sensitivity." There was even speculation that Kim Jong-il may have invited Lee for a summit in Pyongyang similar to the June 2000 summit and the summit in October 2007 with Kim Dae-jung's successor, Roh Moo-hyun.
A sign of desperation?