Tuesday 24 September 2019

South Korean president to meet Kim Jong Un’s sister

North Korean officials are heading to the South for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kim Yo Jong with Kim Jong Un (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service/AP)
Kim Yo Jong with Kim Jong Un (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to meet Kim Jong Un’s sister and other senior North Korean officials who are heading to the South on Friday for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Mr Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said the North Korean delegates will attend the opening ceremony of the Games on Friday evening.

He added that Mr Moon will hold a luncheon with the North Korean delegates on Saturday.

Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong seen on TV screens in Seoul (AP/Ahn Young-joon)

Kim Yo Jong would be the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North Korean delegation will also include the country’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam.

Analysts say Kim Yo Jong inclusion in the Olympic delegation shows North Korea’s ambition to use the Olympics to break out from diplomatic isolation by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the US.

South Korean media have been speculating on whether Kim Jong Un will send a personal message to Mr Moon through his sister and, if so, whether it would include a proposal for a summit between the Koreas.

Mike Pence arrives in South Korea (AP/Ahn Young-joon)

US vice president Mike Pence, who arrived in South Korea on Thursday ahead of the Olympics, will meet Mr Moon separately.

Mr Pence is pushing South Korea to adopt a more hawkish stance towards Pyongyang and warning against North Korean “propaganda” efforts at the games.

Mr Moon has looked to the Olympics as an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic opening with the North after a year of heightened tensions over its nuclear and missile programmes.

Kim Yo Jong has been an increasingly prominent figure in North Korea’s leadership and is considered one of the few people who has earned Kim Jong Un’s absolute trust.

She was promoted by her brother last year to be a member of the decision-making political bureau of the ruling party’s central committee, which analysts said showed that her activities are more substantive than previously thought.

The North Korean delegation will also include Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.

Neither Kim Yo Jong nor Kim Yong Nam are among the North Korean officials blacklisted under UN sanctions over the North’s weapons programmes, but the US Treasury Department last year included Kim Yo Jong on its list of blacklisted officials over her position as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.

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