Korea to bid final farewell to former president Kim

A man bows before a portrait of former South Korean president Kim Young-Sam displayed at a memorial in Seoul on November 23, 2015.

South Korea made final preparations to bid farewell to late President Kim Young-sam at a state funeral Thursday, bringing leaders from all walks of life together to honour his message of national harmony and unity.

The ceremony will be held at the National Assembly at 2 p.m. under the supervision of a funeral committee consisting of incumbent and retired politicians who fought together against military governments, along with foreign dignitaries and the commander of the US Forces Korea.

The funeral will in particular bring together the "Sangdo-dong" and the "Donggyo-dong" factions to honour Kim, an iconic democratic fighter who carried out sweeping political and financial reforms during his presidency. The two factions were respectively led by Kim and his rival late President Kim Dae-jung during the democratic struggles and their time in office.

The factions, named after residential districts in Seoul where the two former democratic fighters lived, also represent the deep-rooted regionalism between the Gyeongsang provinces, supportive of Kim Young-sam, and the Jeolla provinces loyal to Kim Dae-jung.

The funeral brings these two factions together to honour Kim Young-sam, who wished to resolve the nation's deeply-rooted regionalism and overcome the pain of the nation's dark political past, his followers said.

"The bereaved family and the followers of the late president wanted to break down the regionalism by taking (the funeral) as an opportunity with the spirit of harmony and unity that he left," said Kim Bong-jo, vice chairman of the funeral committee.

"Democratization is the path toward unity that transcends time and regions."

A total of 2,222 people have participated in organising the funeral, including the leaders of the ruling and the main opposition parties -- Reps. Kim Moo-sung and Moon Jae-in -- as well as those from different political factions. The committee also included former militant leaders Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, whom Kim fought against, as advisers, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The commander of the US forces here, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti was also named as a member of the funeral committee.

Kim's funeral will be the nation's first state funeral since the government revised the law to arrange state funerals for national leaders in 2011. Late former President Roh Moo-hyun was given a national funeral in 2009, in which the government partially covered the cost.

The funeral will start with the car carrying Kim's body arriving at the parliament, where he led democratic movements in protests against militant regimes ruled by late former President Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan.

More than 10,000 guests are expected to participate, including the bereaved family, funeral committee members and other dignitaries who were close to the deceased.

Former National Assembly Speaker Kim Soo-han is set to deliver a eulogy, followed by rituals by religious leaders. After the funeral, Kim will be buried at the Seoul National Cemetery after a visit to his home in Sangdo-dong, southwestern Seoul.

Meanwhile, a Cheong Wa Dae official said that President Park Geun-hye may not attend the funeral unless her condition improves. Park's cold symptoms have worsened, along with accumulated fatigue, after a recent three-nation swing to attend a string of annual summits with regional leaders.

"It may be difficult for Park to attend the state funeral unless her condition improves as the outdoor ceremony could last for more than an hour in the cold weather," he said.

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