PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — A South Korean mourning delegation returned home Tuesday after meeting with North Korea's next leader, who has rapidly gained prominence since his father's death.
Kim Jong Un's brief meeting Monday with a group led by a former South Korean first lady and a prominent business leader shows Seoul that he is assured in his new role atop the country's ruling structure.
The South Koreans also met with Kim Yong Nam, president of Presidium of North Korea's parliament, according to footage from Associated Press Television News in Pyongyang. He often represents the country and is considered a nominal head of state.
The sides agreed to push for the implementation of 2000 and 2007 summit agreements between the countries aimed at expanding economic cooperation, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said briefly. A spokesman for one of the delegations later confirmed that the summit deals, which would benefit the North financially, were discussed.
The lead delegates were the widow of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who engineered a "sunshine" engagement policy with the North and held a landmark summit with Kim Jong Il in 2000, and Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, whose late husband had ties to the North. North Korea sent delegations to Seoul when the women's husbands died.
During Kim Jong Un's meeting with the South Koreans, he thanked them after they expressed condolences and sympathy over his father's death. Kim Jong Il died Dec. 17.
They stood on a red carpet and bowed silently at the Kumsusan palace, where Kim Jong Il's bier is surrounded by flowers and flanked by an honor guard, footage from APTN in Pyongyang showed. Kim Jong Un and the two women later exchanged handshakes and clasped their hands when they spoke briefly. Their conversations were inaudible.
Mourning continued, meanwhile, despite frigid winter weather, in the final days before Kim Jong Il's funeral on Wednesday.
People continued lining up in central Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square, where a massive portrait that usually features Kim Il Sung has been replaced by one of Kim Jong Il, to bow before his smiling image and to lay funeral flowers. Heated buses stood by to give mourners a respite from the cold, and hot tea and water were distributed from beverage kiosks.
Associated Press writers Foster Klug, Hyung-jin Kim, Sam Kim and Jiyoung Won in Seoul, South Korea, and AP Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee contributed to this report. Follow AP's Korea coverage at twitter.com/newsjean and twitter.com/APKlug.