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Ruling party invites Kim Yo-jong to Seoul

July 31,2019
The ruling party has requested a visit from Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, for the upcoming commemoration ceremony for the 10th anniversary of the death of former President Kim Dae-jung, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

Rep. Kim Han-jung, a member of the Democratic Party’s special committee on the Korean Peninsula’s denuclearization, told Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday that he had made the request to a senior North Korean official during an international event last week.

“Last week, when I met with Ri Jong-hyok, vice chairman of the North’s Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, in Manila, I extended an invitation for Kim Yo-jong, first vice director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers’ Party,” he said. “But I was not given an immediate answer.”

“Ri told me that he would report to the upper authority about the invitation,” Rep. Kim said. “We have to wait and see. I also briefed Chairman Lee Hae-chan [of the ruling party] in detail about it Monday after I came back to Seoul.”

Rep. Kim also told Newsis about his request to the North. “Aug. 18 is the 10th anniversary of the late president’s death,” he said. “The National Assembly speaker will host an official commemoration event, and a concert will be organized by KBS that day. So I asked the North to send the delegation.”

The North has paid special respects to the late president, who had the first historic inter-Korean summit in 2000 with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the late father of Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong.

Rep. Kim, however, was tightlipped about any plans for the two Koreas’ joint commemoration of the Aug. 15 Liberation Day. “At this point, I cannot reveal anything,” he told Yonhap.

He had earlier planned to send the invitation through the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, an alliance of 200 political parties, associations and civic groups dedicated to inter-Korean issues and unification.

Kim Yo-jong came to Panmunjom last month, when the late President Kim’s widow Lee Hee-ho died, to deliver North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s condolence message and flowers.

Officials of the ruling party, however, said it is hard to predict whether the North would respond positively, taking into account the current deadlock in the inter-Korean relations and the North-U.S. dialogues, despite the meeting among the leaders of the two Koreas and the United States at Panmunjom on June 30.

“If the North has a will and if conditions are met, we believe it is possible that she will visit,” said a party official. “But the North is complaining about the upcoming Korea-U.S. military exercises and Korea’s purchase of F-35A stealth fighter jets, so it won’t be easy.”

Rep. Kim met with Ri at the 2019 International Convention for Peace and Prosperity in the Asia Pacific, cohosted by the Gyeonggi provincial government and the Asia Pacific Peace Interchange Association, in Manila.

The event took place from Thursday to Saturday, and North Korea sent a six-member delegation headed by Ri. From the South, about 30 people, including Rep. Kim and former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, participated in the convention.

About 300 delegates from 11 countries including the two Koreas, Japan, the Philippines, China and Australia attended the event, aimed at exploring possible resolutions to Japan’s wartime forced labor and sexual slavery in the region.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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