SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in met on Saturday with Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as well as other high-level members of the North Korean delegation who attended the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.
The meeting between Moon and Kim Yo-jong, which was to be followed by a working lunch, began at 11:00 am local time at the presidential palace in Seoul, according to Yonhap news agency.
The North Korean delegation, which arrived on Friday to attend the opening ceremony of the Games and is due to leave on Sunday, is led by the country’s honorary president, Kim Yong-nam, the highest ranking official ever to visit the South.
Also among the 25,000 spectators who witnessed the colorful ceremony on Friday night were the South Korean president, US Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The United States, South Korea and Japan have been at the forefront of international efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which saw Pyongyang carry out a series of missile tests last year.
North and South Korea have technically been at war for 65 years, when hostilities in the Korean War ended in 1953. No peace treaty was ever signed.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres echoed on Thursday the sentiments of International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who last month said the Games could send “the message of peace” after the IOC had approved the two Koreas’ request to march jointly under the same flag for the first time since Turin in 2006.
“If there is a true symbol of peace in the world, that is the Olympic spirit,” Guterres said.
The North Korean delegation’s trip marks the first time a member of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since Kim Il Sung’s reign in the 1950s, has set foot on South Korean soil.
While conservatives in the South have been critical of the visit and the participation of North Korean athletes alongside South Koreans under a unified Korean flag, Seoul has welcomed the delegation’s visit as a sign of Pyongyang’s “determination to improve (the bilateral) relationship and make the Games successful,” according to a presidential office spokesman.