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S. Korean leader gets message from Kim Jong Il

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW Kim Jong Il passed on message seeking better relations with South Korea
  • NEW South Korean state media: President met envoys from North Korea
  • Report: Top unification officials of the rival nations met Saturday
  • North Korean delegation in Seoul to mourn the death of Kim Dae-jung
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday met with a visiting North Korean delegation, and received a message from the North's reclusive leader Kim Jong Il, according South Korea's state media.

The funeral of Kim Dae-jung is bringing North and South Korean officials together.

The funeral of Kim Dae-jung is bringing North and South Korean officials together.

The verbal message delivered by the delegation expressed Kim's hope for improved relations with South Korea, the presidential office said without elaboration, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

"In response, President Lee explained our government's firm North Korea policy and asked the North Korean delegates to relay his message to Chairman Kim," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

There was no public statement from the North Korea's communist government.

The six-member delegation, in Seoul to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, decided to extend its trip by one day to meet Lee, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In Taek met with North Korean unity leader Kim Yang Gon earlier Saturday in a possible sign that icy relations between the two rival nations are thawing.

The meeting was the first high-level, cross-border contact in nearly two years.

"After meeting with several people (in the South), I felt the imperative need for North-South relations to improve," Kim told the Seoul minister during a photo session with him and his staff, Yonhap reported.

The meetings between officials of the two Koreas are in stark contrast to the tense public statements they made about each other earlier this year.

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Tensions between the two were heightened in July when North Korea launched seven short-range missiles toward the Sea of Japan. The launches came after North Korea conducted a nuclear test on May 25 and threatened the United States and South Korean ships near its territorial waters.

South Korea condemned the action, calling the launches "provocative" and "unwise."

CNN's Jake Perez contributed to this report.

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