North Korea to send head of state to South Korea for Olympics

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Yesterday, North Korea announced head of state Kim Yong Nam is to attend ceremonies in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the upcoming Winter Olympics. The proposed visit would make Kim the highest-ranking North Korean official to go to the South in several years.

Kim Yong Nam seated in a suit, wearing a ceremonial pin for North Korea
File photo of Kim Yong Nam, 2014.
Image: Federation Council of the Russian Federation. (Reuse terms.)

The move comes after the two Koreas announced a unified team to play women's ice hockey in the games and the North canceled a scheduled joint ceremonial display, opting instead for a military parade on their side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Kim holds the title of President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, a purely ceremonial role in the legislative body of North Korea. He is to head a 22-member delegation supplementing artists, athletes, coaches, and a cheer squad of over 200. The last time a high-ranking official visited the South was the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon when army leader and Workers' Party's Central Committee member Hwang Pyong So came to the closing ceremony. Hwang was purportedly the second most powerful man in North Korea behind supreme leader Kim Jong-un until he disappeared in late 2017.

South Korea's Ministry of Unification announced the delegation after the unified Korean women's ice hockey team lost to Sweden 3–1. The two nations plan to march together on February 9's opening ceremony but the North canceled a joint cultural event, instead announcing a military parade for the day before. The allies are to hold annual joint military exercises after the Paralypmics which follow the Olympic Games.