The Korea Herald


NK high-level delegation to fly to S. Korea

Seoul works to get UN sanctions lifted for delegation

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Feb. 8, 2018 - 14:20

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North Korea said its high-level delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will fly to South Korea, while Seoul is working with the United Nations to temporarily lift a travel ban on a sanctioned North Korean official planning to attend the Winter Games.

North Korea told South Korea that it plans to send its high-level delegation by plane to Incheon Airport this week, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Thursday.

The delegation led by the country’s nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam will arrive in Incheon, west of Seoul, around 1:30 p.m. Friday, the ministry added.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and sister Kim Yo-jong. (AP) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and sister Kim Yo-jong. (AP)

The high-level delegation, including Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong-un, will stay in South Korea for three days.

The plane will return home without standing by at Incheon Airport, the main gateway to South Korea, and will come back to the South to pick up the delegation on Sunday evening, the ministry added.

It will mark the first air trip by a North Korean delegation since October 2014 when three top officials -- Hwang Pyong-so, Choe Ryong-hae and Kim Yang-gon -- visited the South to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games in Incheon.

Cheong Wa Dae welcomed the news of the high-level delegation’s visit, saying it reflects the North’s willingness to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The two Koreas have engaged in sports diplomacy since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare olive branch to Seoul in his New Year’s Day message, after years of tensions sparked by the North’s nuclear and missile provocations.

But the delegation’s trip clashes with international sanctions, as some members of the delegation, including Kim Yo-jong and Choe Hwi, the head of the National Sports Guidance Committee, are blacklisted by international sanctions.

Seoul asked the UN on Wednesday to allow an exemption for Choe, who is blacklisted by both the US Treasury and the UN Security Council.

The committee operates by consensus, and if no objections are raised by any of the 15 council members by 3 p.m. EST Thursday, the request will be greenlighted.

North Korea’s state-run airline, Air Koryo, is also targeted by both South Korea and US’ unilateral sanctions. 

Kim Yong-nam (Yonhap) Kim Yong-nam (Yonhap)

UN-imposed sanctions also require member countries to inspect cargo when North Korean planes land at or depart from their countries.

“The government will consult with the international community to ensure (the visit causes) no row over sanctions,” said a government official.

However, a Unification Ministry official in Seoul said earlier Thursday that an aircraft exclusively used by Kim Jong-un does not appear to be subject to sanctions.

By Jung Min-kyung (