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(LEAD) Moon holds rare meeting with N. Korea's titular head of state, leader's sister

2018/02/10 11:21

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more information in paras 4-6, 9-10)

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a meeting Saturday with a group of high-profile North Korean officials including the country's ceremonial head of state and a younger sister of true North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The rare and historic meeting began shortly after 11:00 a.m. at Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. It was set to be followed by a lunch hosted by Moon.

The North Korean officials arrived here Friday as part of a 22-member delegation, led by the North Korean ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, who is the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.

Moon briefly met Kim at a reception he hosted for visiting heads of state and other global leaders before the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Friday.

He also encountered Kim Jong-un's sister, Yo-jong, at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in PyeongChang later on the same day.

Saturday's meeting also involved two other high-level delegates -- Choe Hwi, the chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son-gwon, the head of the North's state agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

Yo-jong's South Korea trip was especially surprising, as she is the only member of the communist state's ruling family to have visited the South, at least since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The two Koreas technically remain at war, as the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The North Korean delegation's visit to the South Korean presidential office was the first of its kind since August 2009, when a high-level North Korean delegation made a rare trip here for the funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who held the first-ever inter-Korean summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

The divided Koreas have held two inter-Korean summits, both in Pyongyang, with the second summit held between the late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and the late Kim Jong-il in 2007.

The North Korean delegation is set to return home Sunday.