SEOUL – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a message of sympathy to the South’s President Moon Jae-in over the death of his mother, officials said Thursday, the pair’s first contact in months with inter-Korean ties at a standstill.
Kang Han-ok, who was born and grew up in the North but was evacuated by U.S. forces during the Korean War, died from a chronic illness on Tuesday. She was 92.
An unidentified North Korean official delivered Kim’s written message at the Demilitarized Zone on Wednesday afternoon, presidential office spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said.
Kim expressed “his deep condolences … and consolation to President Moon,” she said, adding the document was sent on to Moon at a Catholic church in Busan, where mourners had gathered.
The missive comes with relations between North and South at a standstill, with Pyongyang repeatedly excoriating Seoul following the collapse of Kim’s nuclear summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February.
Moon’s parents were North Korean refugees who fled on board a U.S. troopship in the December 1950 Hungnam evacuation, a giant rescue of U.S. soldiers and Korean civilians from advancing Chinese and North Korean forces.
Moon was born in 1953 and the family later settled in Busan.
Moon — who was instrumental in brokering talks between Kim and Trump last year — accompanied his mother to a family reunion in the North in 2004, when she met her younger sister for the first time in over half a century.
“She has earned eternal solace after a tumultuous lifetime caused by division and flight,” Moon said at her funeral Thursday, according to the presidential office.
“I hope she will be reunited with my father, her parents and six siblings and visit the hometown that she could not return to” while alive, he added.