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(3rd LD) N. Korea's high-level Olympic delegation arrives in PyeongChang

2018/02/09 16:52

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(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with reports of the delegation's arrival in PyeongChang, minor changes in paras 2-8)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean delegation, including the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arrived in PyeongChang on Friday for the opening of the Winter Olympic Games, while the head of the high-profile delegation was also scheduled to attend a reception dinner hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The high-level government delegation to the quadrennial event arrived in South Korea earlier in the day on an airplane believed to be used exclusively by the North Korean leader.

The North Korean delegates were greeted by South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and other ranking officials at the airport.

The delegation was headed by the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.

However, who was in charge apparently became clear when the 90-year-old titular head of state offered the top seat directly across from Seoul's point man on North Korea to the North Korean leader's sister, Yo-jong, who eventually declined.

Kim Yong-nam (R), the chief of a high-profile North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, gestures to Kim Yo-jong (2nd from R), a sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, to take the top seat in a meeting with South Korean officials at Seoul's Incheon International Airport held shortly after their arrival in South Korea on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap) Kim Yong-nam (R), the chief of a high-profile North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, gestures to Kim Yo-jong (2nd from R), a sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, to take the top seat in a meeting with South Korean officials at Seoul's Incheon International Airport held shortly after their arrival in South Korea on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap)

The North Korean delegates traveled to PyeongChang on a KTX express train. They were set to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games later in the day.

Kim Yong-nam will also attend a reception dinner hosted by Moon that will also involve U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and some 200 other people.

The North Korean delegates will return to Seoul for a Saturday lunch meeting with Moon, possibly at his presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Kim Yong-nam is technically the highest ranking North Korean official to visit South Korea, while Kim Yo-jong is the only member of the reclusive state's ruling family to have ever visited the South.

The divided Koreas have held two rounds of inter-Korean summits, in 2000 and 2007, both in Pyongyang.

Many speculate Yo-jong may be carrying a message from the North Korean leader himself.

The official delegation will return home Sunday.

Pyongyang agreed to take part in the Olympics in bilateral talks with Seoul last month, which marked the first inter-Korean dialogue in more than two years.

The North has sent 22 athletes and hundreds of cheerleaders, performers and taekwondo demonstrators to PyeongChang. A 140-member art troupe from the North performed in the eastern city of Gangneung on Thursday and will do so again in Seoul on Sunday.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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