Feminist and democracy activist

Born: September 21, 1922;

Died: June 10, 2019

LEE Hee-ho, who has died aged 97, was a South Korean feminist activist who fought for democracy against dictatorships alongside her husband and future President Kim Dae-jung.

Lee, a devout Christian, left a will saying she would pray for South Korea's people and a peaceful unification with North Korea in heaven.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the country has lost a great person who devoted her life to women and democracy.

Born in Seoul in 1921, Lee, following her college graduation and studies in the United States, began actively campaigning for women's rights in the 1950s, establishing activist and research groups and serving a senior role with South Korea's YWCA.

She married Kim in 1962 when he was a dissident politician. Kim, who died in 2009, survived a death sentence and an assassination attempt by dictators before winning the presidency in 1997.

Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his pro-democracy struggle and his rapprochement policies with North Korea, months after he met then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang for the first summit between the Koreas since their 1950-53 war.

North Korea sent a high-level delegation to the South after Kim Dae-jung died in 2009.

There is speculation the North may send another delegation to mourn Lee's death although diplomatic activity between the Koreas has halted since a February summit between current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump collapsed over disagreements over exchanging sanctions relief for nuclear disarmament.

An official from Seoul's Unification Ministry, which deals with affairs with North Korea, said that the North had not expressed a desire to send a delegation and that it was unclear whether the country would. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules.

Lee had joined her husband's 2000 trip to Pyongyang for a summit and also visited the North Korean capital in 2011 after the death of Kim Jong Il. Speaking after a visit to North Korea, she spoke about her hopes for future peace.

“Holding the hands of innocent, beaming children there, I deeply felt we should not pass the pain of the division of the motherland on to the next generations,” she said.

“I hope all the Korean people put their minds together to overcome divisions and achieve reunification through reconciliation, cooperation and love, as was declared in the June 15 declaration,”

Lee is survived by her sons Kim Hong-eop, former lawmaker; Kim Hong-geol, permanent president of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation; and her daughters in law Yun Hye-ra, Sin Seon-ryeon, and Im Mi-gyeong.