North Korea is sending a high-ranking delegation to take part in the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea on Sunday, 25 February, in yet another rare friendly act. Pyongyang's eight-member delegation will be led by a top party official, Kim Yong-chol, during the three-day trip which includes the games' closing events.
Tensions in the Korean peninsula somewhat cooled down in recent weeks after the reclusive regime of North Korea agreed to send its athletes to take part in the Olympics in the southern neighbour. Although there has been no political breakthrough with the gesture, the sports diplomacy is widely expected to at least pave way for further discussions with the hermit kingdom.
The South Korean unification ministry said on Thursday, 22 February, that the North had informed that it is sending a group of delegates for the closing ceremony. But, Seoul strictly played down any possibility of a US-North Korea dialogue – something which did not take place during the opening ceremony after the North pulled out of the option at the last-minute.
The visiting Kim, vice chairman of the Korean Workers' Party and who is on a sanctions list, will be allowed to visit South Korea this time as it is a special occasion, the ministry said. He is also expected to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks.
"But the government will make efforts to lead the US and North Korea to open dialogue," South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told lawmakers. However, the minister evaded the question whether the government is mulling to send a special envoy to North Korea.
Incidentally, Ivanka Trump, daughter of the US President Donald Trump and White House advisor, will also be present at the closing ceremony when the North Korean delegates visit the country. This has also raised both speculation and expectation of a prospective exchange between the two bitter rivals, Washington and Pyongyang.
The North's previous delegation was led by the country's titular head of state Kim Yong-nam, 90, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and the leader's sister, Kim Yo-jong. The rogue leader's sister personally delivered a message inviting the South Korean president to Pyongyang for talks as well.