N Korean envoys for better ties with South

SEOUL:North Korean envoys sent to mourn former South Korean leader Kim Dae-Jung called today for an improvement in inter-Korean ties during the highest-level talks between the neighbours in nearly two years.

They also asked for a meeting with conservative President Lee Myung-Bak, Yonhap news agency said, because they were carrying a message from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il that they wanted to convey. Relations between the two Koreas, who never signed a peace deal following the 1950-53 Korean War, worsened sharply after Lee came to power last year and pledged to take a firmer line with Kim and his isolated communist regime.

“While meeting many South Koreans here, I came to believe that inter-Korean ties must be improved at the earliest,” said Kim Yang-Gon, the North’s official in charge of inter-Korean ties. The six-member delegation was originally in Seoul only to mourn the death of former president Kim Dae-Jung, who won the Nobel Peace Prize after he held the first inter-Korean summit in 2000. It was originally scheduled to leave at 0700 GMT today, a day before Kim’s state funeral. The rare encounters today have raised hopes for better ties after more than a year of tension between the two Koreas.