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Confidant of North Korea’s Kim Jong II dies
SEOUL, Nov 7 (Agencies):
Published on 7 Nov. 2010 11:46 PM IST
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Jo Myong Rok, a longtime confidant of North Korean leader Kim Jong II, who travelled to Washington in 2000 on a then unprecedented goodwill mission, has died. He was 82.
Jo, who had served as first vice chairman of the North’s powerful National Defense Commission since 1998, died yesterday of inveterate heart disease, the official Korean Central News Agency reported in a dispatch from Pyongyang.
“His death is a great loss to the party, the army and people of (North Korea) waging a dynamic struggle to win the victory of the cause of building a thriving socialist nation,” it said.
Jo, a Korean War veteran, visited Washington in October 2000 as Kim’s special envoy and met with then President Bill Clinton.
He also later pledged to then US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, that North Korea would take steps to fundamentally improve relations in the interests of peace and security.
Jo was the highest-level North Korean official ever to visit Washington, and his trip, followed by Albright’s landmark visit to Pyongyang, was part of Pyongyang’s efforts to keep up the momentum generated by the breakthrough summit between the leaders of the two Koreas held in earlier 2000.
The reconciliatory mood, however, has since changed following tension between Pyongyang and Washington over the regime’s nuclear weapons program and other issues.
Jo’s body will lie in state at Pyongyang’s Central Hall of Workers to receive mourners before a state funeral Wednesday, the dispatch said. Kim and his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, are among the members of the funeral committee, it said.
As well as the No. 2 job at the defense commission, Jo also served as a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly and a member of the politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party, the KCNA dispatch said.
The North’s state media hasn’t reported on Jo’s public activities for several years, sparking intense South Korean media speculation about his health and a possible change in Pyongyang’s power structure.
The two Koreas are still technically at war because their conflict in the early 1950s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The US stations 28,500 troops in South Korea to deter aggression from North Korea.

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