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South Korean civilian delegation enters North to pay respects to Kim Jong-il

A delegation of South Korean citizens arrived in Pyongyang on Monday to express condolences over the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

(CNN) Seoul - The 18-member civilian delegation was led by Lee Hui-ho -- the widow of the former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at nurturing reconciliation between the two Koreas -- and Hyun Jeong-eun, the widow of Chung Mong-hun, the former chairman of Hyundai Group who pushed for heavy industrial investments in the North.

"I hope this helps improve North and South relations," Lee said in a statement read by one of her aides prior to her departure at the border.

The visit comes at a delicate point in relations between the two Koreas. The death of Kim Jong-il, announced by Pyongyang on December 19, has put the region on edge, as the world waits to see how the leadership succession will play out in the secretive regime.

Seoul has expressed its sympathy to the North Korean people and given the green light to Lee and Hyun's group to visit the North. But it has said it will not send an official delegation to pay respects to Kim Jong-il.

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