Executive Intelligence Review


North Korean Head of State To Attend Opening of Winter Olympics; Possible Meeting with Moon Jae-in

Feb. 5, 2018 (EIRNS)—The North Korean government notified the South Korean government today that North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, will be visiting South Korea from Feb. 9-11 for the opening of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Kim, 90, is president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and is said to have little influence over North Korea’s domestic politics, but as head of state fills a visible diplomatic role by receiving foreign heads of state and approving the credentials of ambassadors and represents North Korea abroad.

According to reports in the Korea Herald, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has welcomed the visit and has suggested that he might even meet with Kim. The most likely venue, so far, for any meeting would be at Olympic events that both will be attending. A one-on-one meeting is said to be a possibility, but has not been arranged, yet.

“We believe [Kim’s visit] reflects North Korea’s determination to improve the South Korea-North Korea relationship and make the Olympic Games successful and that the North has shown sincere and earnest efforts toward such an end,”

Cheong Wa Dae (Presidential residence) spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a press briefing.

Further reports in the Korea Herald indicated that the significance of Kim’s visit to the South will depend on what other officials accompany him. Kim is not subject to sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, but other officials who could accompany him are.

The Presidential Blue House in Seoul, reported Reuters, said the visit by Kim, the most senior North Korean official to cross the border into the South since the Korean War ended with a truce in 1953, would create “various opportunities” for high-level talks. Also attending the Olympics opening ceremony will be U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, though there is no indication at this point of any discussion of a meeting between Kim and Pence.

President Moon told U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Feb. 2 that the momentum of improved North-South relations would continue and that Pence’s visit would be an “important prelude for that,” according to the Blue House.