Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 10:43 UK

N Korea envoys mourn Kim Dae-jung

North Korea's delegation bows before portrait of Kim Dae-jung - 21 August 2009
North Korea sent several of Kim Jong-il's senior aides to Seoul

Senior North Korean officials have paid respects to late former President Kim Dae-jung, who is lying in state in Seoul ahead of his funeral on Sunday.

The six envoys are the highest-level delegation to visit South Korea in nearly two years.

Mr Kim devoted his presidency to improving relations between the two Koreas, still technically at war.

After nuclear and missile tests in May, the North has made a series of what some see as conciliatory gestures.

The six officials from North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, wearing black suits and ties, placed a wreath of flowers on the steps of South Korea's National Assembly, where Kim Dae-jung is lying in state.

The flowers were marked as a gift from North Korea's ruler, Kim Jong-il.

Fears of snub

The delegation's visit is, first and foremost, a sign of the esteem in which the former South Korean president was held on both sides of the border, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul.

Mr Kim died on Tuesday at the age of 85, after a bout of pneumonia. He was president from 1998 to 2003 and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his historic summit with Kim Jong-il in 2000.

It is the first time representatives from the North have come to Seoul since the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak took office early last year.

Relations have soured since President Lee cut the flow of aid to the North, tying its resumption to nuclear disarmament.

The delegation's visit is being seen by some as a rare chance for inter-Korean dialogue after a recent series of positive gestures from the North.

A South Korean worker detained in the North since March was released, and the North has said it will ease restrictions on cross-border traffic to the joint industrial zone in the Northern town of Kaesong.

Pyongyang has also offered to re-introduce tourism visits to the North, and reunions of families split by the 1950-53 war.

But there are fears that the delegation's two-day visit could be used by Pyongyang to give Seoul the cold shoulder, says our correspondent.

Beyond paying tribute to Kim Dae-jung, no itinerary has been agreed. The visit was arranged through Mr Kim's family, not South Korean government officials, and they will leave on Saturday - before the funeral on Sunday.

It is not clear if the North Korean envoys will meet any South Korean officials.

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