NAIROBI, July 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Thursday that a series of changes has happened in North Korea and the most important of them is that the country finally has a leader caring for the livelihoods of his people.
Lee made the remark in Nairobi during a meeting with Korean residents in Kenya, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's policy to put a greater emphasis on economic development, and vowing to seize the chance to bring permanent peace to the divided Korean Peninsula.
"There are many changes (in North Korea), but what I consider the most important is that a leader has finally emerged that thinks of the livelihoods of people as being more important than other things," Lee said during a meeting at a hotel in Nairobi.
Lee said there's no big difference in opinion between the South and the North on the point that the two sides should create permanent peace and move toward prosperity, adding that it has long been the South's goal through a series of administrations.
"It is North Korea that has changed a lot," Lee said, referring to Kim's economic development policy. Even though the basic nature of the regime is unlikely to change abruptly, Lee stressed that it is "for sure that (the North) is changing in a way that considers economic development and the improvement of people's livelihoods as important."
"We're not going to miss this chance," he said. "We've got this chance for peace. If North Korea's leader is making a big changeover in policy in a way that puts priority on the economy and considers people's livelihoods as important, we have to seize this chance."
Lee also said that the peace process with North Korea has made big strides, and it would be difficult to go back, apparently referring to a series of summit meetings involving the leaders of the two Koreas and the U.S.
Lee arrived in Kenya earlier Thursday on the first stop of his weeklong three-nation trip that will also take him to Tanzania and Oman. Lee flew on the presidential jet, the first time South Korea's prime minister has used Air Force One for a long-distance trip.