Breaking diplomatic ice

South Korean President Moon Jae-In met with Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in a culmination of smaller meetings between the rival nations’ officials on Friday. Kim Yo-Jong, the only member of North Korea’s ruling family to have visited the South since the 1950-53 Korean War, shook hands with Moon during the brief encounter.
The handshake topped off a day of diplomacy between the two countries, which have been in a technical state of war since 1953, after Moon received North Korean ceremonial leader Kim Yong-Nam ahead of the opening ceremony, in which North and South Korean teams marched together. Kim Yong-Nam, the highest-ranking North Korean functionary to ever visit South Korea, took part in a reception held on Friday in Pyeongchang for foreign government guests, local television showed.
Kim Yong-Nam, who is North Korea’s parliament head and ceremonial head of state, participated in the event, to which other foreign government representatives were also invited.
The Pyongyang delegation of athletes and top officials to the Games has been interpreted as an attempt to seek better relations by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
The North pledged to send a delegation of athletes and top officials to the Games during a meeting on January 9 with South Korea — their first face-to-face talks since 2015.
Relations on the Korean Peninsula had deteriorated significantly last year over Pyongyang’s rapidly accelerating ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing programmes.
Kim Jung -Un had boasted about his nuclear weapons capabilities in his New Year’s address before offering to send representatives to Pyeongchang, including his sister.
Kim Yong-Nam arrived earlier on Friday at South Korea’s Incheon International Airport with Kim Yo-Jong, as part of North Korea’s delegation to the Games.
Kim Yo-Jong smiled as she was greeted upon arrival by South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, local television showed.
She has held various posts since her brother took over the reins of the isolated country in 2011. South Korea media has speculated that Kim Jung -Un wanted to send a message to its southern neighbour by sending his sister. The North has 22 athletes and hundreds of cheerleaders, performers and taekwondo demonstrators participating in Pyeongchang. The Games will conclude on February 25. — dpa