The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has sent his condolences to the family of Sun Myung Moon, the deceased former head of the Unification Church, raising speculation that Pyongyang may send a delegation of mourners to South Korea to attend the funeral.
"I express my deep condolences to widow Han Hak Ja and the bereaved family upon receiving the sad news that Moon Sun Myung ... died of illness," read a message from Kim as reported by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency.
"Though he passed away, his efforts and feats made for the reconciliation and unity of the nation, the reunification of the country and the world peace will last forever."
The funeral for Moon, who died on Monday at the age of 92, will be held on September 15 at the church’s world headquarters in Gapyeong, just east of Seoul.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Moon, a staunch anti-Communist, visited North Korea in the early 1990s and met with Kim Il-sung for discussions on the possible reunification of the Korean peninsula.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Moon described his visit with Kim il-Sung in his 2010 autobiography. Moon reportedly told the founder of North Korea: “You are older than I, so you are like my older brother,” to which Kim replied: “from now on, let’s refer to each other as older brother and younger brother.”
Moon was born in what is now North Korea.
A company linked to the church, Pyeonghwa (Peace) Motors, even formed an auto manufacturing joint venture in the North in 1999.
In addition, the Church sent delegations to North Korea to attend the funerals of both Kim Il-sung in 1994 and Kim Jong-il last year.
Kim Jong-il’s funeral also include a group of prominent South Korean citizens, including a former first lady as mourners.
In addition, when Chung Ju-Yung, the founder of Hyundai Group, died in 2001, Pyongyang dispatched a delegation for his funeral. North Korea also sent mourners to the 2009 funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung.