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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 9)

2018/02/09 07:08

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'Peace Olympics' begins

Kim should send reconciliation message through sister

The PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games opens today after years of hard work to transform an alpine town in one of the nation's most underdeveloped regions into an Olympic host city.

The Moon Jae-in administration has placed priority on peace-making with North Korea through PyeongChang 2018. All eyes will be on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong, who is arriving in the South today on a flight as part of a high-level Olympic delegation.

Her visit has captured intense media attention worldwide as no member of the so-called Mount Baekdu bloodline, the three-generation lineage of North Korea's ruling dynasty, has visited the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim Jong-il (1941-2011) did not reciprocate the historic visit to North Korea by the late former President Kim Dae-jung, which produced the South-North Joint Declaration on June 15, 2000, during the first inter-Korean summit after the division of the Korean Peninsula.

Aside from the granddaughter of North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), the country's Olympic delegates will include its nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam, National Sports Guidance Committee Chairman Choe Hwi and Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.

It is noteworthy that the delegation is formed of some of the key figures in the North Korean regime.

The high-level delegation has ignited controversies again about our government's violation of international sanctions to accommodate North Korea during the Olympics. Choe has been on the U. N. sanctions blacklist since June 2017. The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Kim Yo-jong and Choe in January 2017.

Speculation has been mounting that Kim Jong-un is using the Games as an attempt to weaken international sanctions on his regime. Despite these controversies, we believe that Kim Jong-un's active response to Moon's "Peace Olympics" endeavor is a positive signal for improving inter-Korean relations. The high-level delegation led by a member of the ruling Kim dynasty shows the North Korean leader's resolve to use the Olympics as a peace-making occasion.

It is encouraging that the North side has repeatedly mentioned the June 15 Declaration ahead of the Olympics. The head of the North Korean cheerleading squad said, "It feels like we have gone back to the June 15 Declaration era," during a dinner hosted by the unification ministry Wednesday to welcome the visiting North Koreans. Pyongyang also toned down its military parade on the eve of the Olympics.

President Moon will meet with Kim Yo-jong and the high-level delegation on Feb. 10. All eyes will be on what kind of message she will bring on her brother's behalf. Inter-Korean relations will depend heavily on this message. We hope that the inter-Korean exchanges during the Games will build a solid foundation for setting the two Koreas on a path toward reconciliation.

(END)

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