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Former Spymaster to Lead North Korea’s Olympic Ceremony Delegation

The North Koreans’ presence at the closing ceremony raises the possibility of a chance encounter between the North’s delegation and Ms. Trump. Mr. Pence and Ms. Kim sat just feet apart in a V.I.P. box at the opening ceremony but they did not acknowledge one another, their frosty attitudes symbolic of the hostile relations between their countries.

Kim Yong-chol, a former head of the North’s main intelligence agency, now leads a Workers’ Party department in charge of relations with South Korea. He was widely believed to have helped engineer the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in 2010, which killed 46 sailors.


Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and Vice President Mike Pence sat feet from each other at the Olympic opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. Credit Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

Mr. Kim had been on sanctions lists in both South Korea and the United States for his alleged involvement in the North’s military provocations and nuclear weapons development. South Korea is talking with Washington to clear Mr. Kim’s trip to the Olympics, said Noh Kyu-duk, a spokesman for the South Korean foreign ministry.

Still, the South Korean government said on Thursday that it would allow Mr. Kim to lead the delegation across the border.

“We expect the high-level delegation’s participation in the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to help advance the process of settling peace on the Korean Peninsula including the improvement of inter-Korean relations and denuclearization,” the Unification Ministry, a South Korean government agency, said in a statement. “Against this backdrop, from this standpoint, we will accept the visit of North Korea’s high-level delegation to the South.”

Although he is a longtime advocate for dialogue, President Moon has not yet decided whether he would meet with Kim Jong-un. He said he would meet the North Korean leader only if he was assured that their meeting could produce progress in helping end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.

Kim Yong-chol, who will lead Sunday’s delegation, is expected to meet with Mr. Moon to discuss the details of a potential summit meeting.

Until now, North Korea has refused to discuss its pursuit of nuclear weapons with the South, insisting that it was an issue between Pyongyang and the United States.

Mr. Moon is also eager to persuade the United State and North Korea to talk to each other to defuse tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. So far, neither the United States nor North Korea have expressed much interest in dialogue.

Kim Yong-chol is a familiar figure to South Korean negotiators. In 2014, Mr. Kim, who is also a military general, led a delegation to discuss ending hostilities after North and South Korean soldiers exchanged fire across the border.

In 2010, when two North Korean agents were caught in the South while on a mission to assassinate a high-ranking defector from the North, they said they were dispatched by Mr. Kim’s General Bureau of Reconnaissance, the North’s main spy agency, South Korean officials said. The spies told South Korean authorities that Mr. Kim personally assigned them to the assassination mission, throwing them a dinner party before they left for the South.

Source: NYT > World

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