S. Korea’s Kim basks in Nobel Prize glory

SEOUL, South Korea, AP

President Kim Dae-jung, new recipient of the Nobel Prize, will hold as many as 14 one-on-one meetings with European and Asian leaders before and during this week’s Asia-Europe Meeting, aides said Sunday.

“Requests for individual meetings with President Kim have increased significantly since he received the Nobel Peace Prize,” chief presidential spokesman Park Joon-young said.

Kim was awarded the prize Friday for his lifelong efforts to promote democracy and human rights and, most recently, rapprochement with communist North Korea.

The two-day Asia-Europe Meeting, known by its acronym ASEM, is scheduled to be held in Seoul on Friday. Most of the heads of state from its 25 member countries — 15 in Europe and 10 in Asia — will attend.

The biennial meeting, inaugurated in Bangkok in 1996, traditionally has no fixed agenda, with all countries free to raise any issues of interest.

Because the ASEM summit comes only a week after Kim won the Nobel prize, the South Korean president is expected to receive wider attention from foreign leaders and media, aides said.

In the runup to the ASEM summit this week, Kim is set to meet mainland Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and French President Jacques Chirac, who will make state visits to South Korea beginning on Tuesday.

On the sidelines of the summit, the South Korean president also will hold one-on-one meetings with leaders from England, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Malaysia, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Brunei.

Organizers said the summit is expected to adopt a special declaration supporting spreading thaws between the two divided Korean states, following a historic summit of their leaders in June.

Kim Dae-jung is the first South Korean to be awarded a Nobel Prize. He already has received congratulatory phone calls or messages from a number of foreign heads of state, including U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

South Koreans rejoiced with parties, fireworks and special TV programs. Some hotels and restaurants offered free lunches or drinks to celebrate the prize.

Kim’s Internet home page was flooded with over 10,000 congratulatory messages a day, aides said.

One message, signed by Nam Kung-eun, suggested that the president offer half of the Nobel cash prize — about US$100,000 — to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

“That way, the purpose of the prize can better be fulfilled,” Nam said.

There was no immediate response from the presidential office to the suggestion.

In his reply to the congratulatory messages, Kim Dae-jung said in e-mail that he “again wants to credit all of our people for the prize.”

“We have overcome all difficulties in the past half century — the national division and war — and achieved astonishing developments, which the world has come to recognize,” Kim said.

“The Nobel Prize was given to our people who have achieved such feats,” he added.