US teen hopeful for peace after N Korea visit

Jonathan Lee had been treated well during his week-long visit to North Korea.

Beijing: A US teenager who spent a week in North Korea as part of a mission to see a peace forest planted on the tense Korean border said on Thursday his trip had given him "hope" for the future of the peninsula.

Jonathan Lee, a 13-year-old ethnic Korean who hails from the southern US state of Mississippi, said he felt safe and had been treated well during his week-long visit to one of the most secretive states in the world.

Lee had said before the trip on his website that he was heading to Pyongyang with a letter for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, proposing the creation of a "children`s peace forest" in the demilitarised zone dividing North and South.

The trip comes amid high cross-border tensions, which grew after South Korea and the United States accused the North in May of torpedoing one of Seoul`s warships with the loss of 46 lives.

"My letter suggesting this (idea) was passed on to Chairman Kim Jong-Il along with my book as a gift to him," Lee told reporters at Beijing airport.

"I went to several places but the place that made the biggest impression on me was the DMZ," he said.

"While at the DMZ, I spoke of my hope of having a children`s peace forest. My suggestion for the motto is `Above politics, above conflicts, above borders, above ideology`."

Lee has sent letters to South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, US President Barack Obama and China`s President Hu Jintao, explaining his idea for the peace forest of fruit and chestnut trees on the world`s last Cold War frontier.

The surrounding area is heavily fortified with concrete, barbed wire, land mines and soldiers from both North and South Korea.

"It`s all about giving hope to the people and children around the world," Lee said.

"On this trip, I discovered that both sides want reunification, and that Korea is one, so I see hope on the Korean peninsula."

Bureau Report

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