Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung wants to visit North Korea

Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung would like to visit North Korea to meet leader Kim Jong Il as soon as his health allows him to make the trip, his aide said Tuesday. The North's Kim has three times invited the ex-South Korean president, with whom he held the first-ever inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang in 2000. Kim accepted the latest invitation made in August, agreeing to visit at an appropriate time, said Choi Kyung-hwan, an aide to the former South Korean president.

"I will visit Pyongyang as soon as my health allows," Kim Dae-jung was quoted as saying in the Monthly Joong-Ang magazine published Tuesday. "The positions of both the South and the North have been settled for (my) visit to the North. ... Health is the variable to set a date." Choi confirmed the remarks. The visit would be in a private capacity, not as an envoy of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Kim told the magazine.

Kim Dae-jung said he wants to discuss with the North's leader such topics as turning the six-nation talks on the North's program into a permanent security forum in Northeast Asia. Earlier this month, Roh proposed his predecessor visit the North, promising full government support.

Kim Dae-jung held the historic 2000 summit under his trademark "sunshine" policy of engaging the communist neighbor. The summit touched off an unprecedented level of exchanges between the two sides and Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize later that year. During the summit, the North's leader promised to pay a return trip to Seoul, but hasn't yet done so, reports the AP. I.L.

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