S. Korea sends condolences to N. Korean people

SEOUL - South Korea's government sent condolences Tuesday to the North Korean people for the death of their leader Kim Jong-Il, despite tense relations following two deadly border incidents last year.

"The government expresses condolences to the North Korean people," said Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik.

Yu said Seoul would not send a government mourning delegation to Pyongyang, which has in any case said it would not host foreign delegations.

But the families of the South's late President Kim Dae-Jung and of former Hyundai group chairman Chung Mong-Hun would be allowed to attend the funeral on December 28.

Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Jong-Il held the first-ever North-South summit in 2000 and the Hyundai Group pioneered cross-border business exchanges.

On Tuesday, Yu, who is in charge of cross-border ties, also announced that Seoul has postponed a plan to display Christmas lights near the tense border because of the mourning period.

Yu said he hopes the North returns to stability as soon as possible "so that the North and South can cooperate for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula".

His conciliatory televised announcement followed a meeting of foreign affairs and security ministers to discuss how to handle Kim's death, announced Monday.

Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin said the government would reconsider the plan to display Christmas lights in view of the situation.

The communist North had furiously objected to the displays on three towers, which were to be switched on Friday, calling it "psychological warfare" by its capitalist neighbour.

Seoul resumed the display last December after a shelling attack by the North on a border island killed four South Koreans the previous month.

It also accuses its neighbour of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.