North Korea‘s Kim Yong-chol refuses to answer questions on Cheonan sinking

Feb 26, 2018, 08:59 am

print page small font big font

facebook share

tweet share

A North Korean delegation headed by Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, crossed the border to South Korea on Sunday to attend the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics./ Source: Joint Press Corps

By AsiaToday reporter Heo Go-woon

North Korea's high-level delegation led by Kim Yong-chol, a key official handling inter-Korean affairs and the vice chairman of ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, arrived in the South on Sunday to attend the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Kim kept silent on questions related to the Cheonan sinking, and his visit led to a sharp confrontation among political parties.

The eight-member delegation crossed the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) via a land route at around 9:49 a.m., and arrived at the customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) office in Paju at 9:53 a.m.. Kim refused to answer reporters' questions on how he viewed the visit to South Korea and whether he felt sorry for the sinking of the Cheonan warship.

Choe Kang-il, a senior diplomat handling nuclear issue as well as affairs with the United States, was also part of the delegation, raising prospects about possible contact between the North Korean delegation and the U.S. delegation led by U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka.

The North Korean delegation left the CIQ office at around 10:15 a.m. and headed toward Seoul by taking a detour to avoid a protest by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and its supporters, who have been staging a sit-in since Saturday to block its entry to the South. "It seems to me that Kim Yong-chul has used a dog hole to enter South Korea. We have shown him that Republic of Korea remains undiminished," said Rep. Hong Jun-pyo, chairman of the Liberty Korea Party.

The delegates stayed for a while at Walkerhill Hotel in Seoul, where they will stay until they return home on Tuesday. Kim's silence continued until the delegates took the KTX at Deokso Station and arrived at Jinbu Station in Pyeongchang at around 4:11 p.m.. The North Korean officials attended the closing ceremony of the Games on Sunday. The government has not yet revealed their schedule, but the North Koreans are expected to meet with President Moon Jae-in and Cabinet members, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon.

The South Korean political parties showed mixed reactions to Kim's visit. Baek Hae-ryun, spokesperson of the ruling Democratic Party, criticized the Liberty Korea Party's protest, saying, "It's an international embarrassment, and the people are angry." She added, "It is necessary to have a dialogue with people with power for effective resolution of denuclearization." Choi Kyung-hwan, spokesperson of the Party for Democracy and Peace, said, "The actions of the Liberty Korea Party are nothing more than an attempt to disturb the improved inter-Korean relations and peaceful atmosphere of the Korean Peninsula brought by the Olympics."

On the other hand, the leadership of the center-right Bareun Party visited the Daejeon National Cemetery to pay their respects to the 46 soldiers who were killed due to a torpedo attack that sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan in 2010. Bareun Party chair Yoo Seung-min said, "We desperately oppose a visit of Kim Yong-chol, the criminal of the attack against the Cheonan."

The unification ministry said, "We will focus on continuing the inter-Korean dialogue that began with the PyeongChang Olympics."

#Kim Yong-chol #Cheonan #sinking #North Korea #Olympics 
Copyright by Asiatoday