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Former president Kim Dae-jung passes away and inspires South-North Korean talks as a result. Hyundai's chairwoman makes a surprise trip to Pyongyang where she secures the release of an employee. A South Korean golfer pulls off a shocking upset against Tiger Woods. The won rebounds, hurting exporters. And star Choi Jin-sil's remains are stolen by an unidentified male.
Top News: South Korea's former president Kim Dae-jung, who was the first South Korean leader to shake hands with the North's leader Kim Jong-il, died Tuesday at 85 from heart failure, after being hospitalized with pneumonia.
Kim, unlike his predecessors, embraced the North and propelled an engagement policy towards the North that would later become known as the Sunshine Policy. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 after holding a historic summit with his North Korean counterpart.
In his earlier years, the former president was a fervent fighter against the country's military dictatorship. He survived assassination attempts, and was the leading figure in the opposition party until he took office in 1998.
The country is in a state of mourning with broadcasters running special reports and programs dedicated to the loss of its former leader. Kim is the second ex-president South Koreans lost this year, after former leader Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide in May.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il sent a message of condolence and dispatched a delegation to Seoul to pay respects to his former counterpart, which inspired Seoul leaders to propose inter-Korean talks in its effort to rekindle a much damaged relationship. The delegation met with President Lee Myung-bak at the presidential Blue House and delivered a message from North’s leader Kim Jong-il.
It was the first high-level encounter held in two years since conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008.
The seemingly warming relation between the two countries comes after Hyundai chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun made a surprise trip to Pyongyang and successfully secured the release of a Hyundai employee who had been detained in the North since March for speaking against the North Korean leadership while working in the North’s Kaesong Industrial Park — a joint project between the two Koreas lead by Hyundai.
Pyongyang informed Seoul that it would also reopen cross border railways and lift travel restrictions that have been in place since December of last year, signaling that the North may be shifting away from its acts of hostilities since it launched a long-range rocket and conducted a nuclear test earlier this year.
South Koreans celebrated after one of its relatively unknown PGA players, Yang Yong-eun, beat Tiger Woods in the U.S. PGA Championship, becoming the first Asian to win a major match.
Yang was not a familiar name even to South Koreans who have seen many of their female golfers win major matches in the LPGA. After the 37-year-old’s much unanticipated victory, the media splashed photos and stories of Yang’s unknown golf career, signaling the rise of yet another Korean golf star on the global stage.
Money: Export-driven industries that once benefited from the weak won are experiencing a drop in exports as the currency is regaining its strength, which may cause the country to have its first trade deficit in seven months.
Rising oil prices are also expected to further put a dent in the South Korean economy, which many experts say is recovering at a relatively fast pace, although surveys indicate that a majority also believe in the possibility of another dip.
South Korea is expected to slash its global bond sales next year as the dollar-funding squeeze that threatened the country early this year is easing. The country put up $6 billion sales for foreign currency bonds this year but reportedly will cut it back to $2 billion in 2010.
The won tumbled to a 11-year low earlier this year, causing a dollar-funding shortage but quickly rebounded and is currently trading 10 percent below its value before the global financial crisis broke out.
Elsewhere: The remains of late top star Choi Jin-sil, who shocked the country by committing suicide last year, were stolen by an unidentified male who appears to have planned the theft ahead of time.
The suspect is said to have cracked open Choi’s tomb before taking the urn containing the actress’ ashes with him. The police found footage of the male on security cameras during their investigation but have yet to track down the individual.