SEOUL – South Korea’s government acknowledged on Monday its plans to meet with the high-level North Korean delegation that will travel to South to witness the Winter Games commencing on Feb. 9 in the South Korean county of PyeongChang.
Seoul’s presidential office welcomed on Monday the plan of the visit of a delegation, headed by Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of the North Korean Parliament, set to travel to South Korea from Feb. 9-11 to witness the Games.
“We believe it 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,” Seoul’s presidential office spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said at a press briefing.
He added that visit of Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state according to its constitution, to the Games “would be the highest-level North Korean official to visit the South so far,” the local news agency Yonhap reported.
Another government spokesperson said South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is likely meet Kim Yong-nam during the PyeongChang Olympic Games, and he might also hold a bilateral meeting with him on the sidelines of the events of the sporting event.
After informing Seoul of the members of its delegation a day earlier, Pyongyang confirmed on Monday the plan of sending its “high-level” delegation headed by Kim Yong-nam in a statement published by the North Korean state news agency KCNA.
Three other delegates and 18 support officers will accompany Kim Yong-nam, according to Seoul.
Kim Yong-nam’s visit to South Korea for the Olympic Winter Games will coincide with that of the United States Vice President Mike Pence, who is set to arrive in the Asian country on Feb. 8.
A historic agreement was reached in January between the two Koreas – who have technically been at war for more than 65 years –, facilitating the participation of the North in the Games and allowing for the two Koreas to march under the same flag at the Games’ opening ceremony.
Besides athletes, North Korea has also agreed to send hundreds of musicians and cheerleaders to the Winter Games, which will conclude on Feb. 25.
The South Korean government believes that North Korea’s participation in PyeongChang 2018 can help to reduce tension and facilitate rapprochement after 2017 was marked by the weapons tests by Pyongyang and its exchange of threats with US President Donald Trump.