Moon mulls envoy to Pyongyang

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Moon mulls envoy to Pyongyang

Now that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang for a summit, sources in the Blue House said they are contemplating how, and in what format, Seoul is going to formally respond.

When Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, the first vice-director of the Central Committee within the Workers’ Party, relayed the invitation to Moon last Saturday and told him she was acting as her brother’s special envoy, Moon suggested they first create the right environment for talks, which according to his spokesman, was technically a “yes.”

But given the sensitive nature of relations between these two countries, the Blue House is willing to take things further, while it’s still on convivial terms with the mercurial regime.

A senior aide to Moon told the JoongAng Ilbo last Wednesday, before Kim Yo-jong arrived in South Korea with a high-level delegation, that the Blue House was considering sending a special envoy to the North if Kim Yo-jong were to deliver a personal message from Kim Jong-un, depending on the content of the message.

After the invitation was conveyed, a Blue House official said local authorities are now planning what message Moon will send to Kim Jong-un, and how he will send it, once the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games wrap up later this month.

If Seoul does decide to send a special envoy to the North, local analysts say the presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon or National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Suh Hoon - all of whom accompanied Moon when he received the North Korean delegation at the Blue House last Saturday - are possible options.

When Moon introduced Cho and Suh to Kim Yo-jong, he noted that they had visited the North several times during the former Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, adding that his choice to appoint them to their respective positions proves how quickly, and how much, he is willing to improve South-North relations.

If Seoul were to follow its own precedent, Suh would have the highest probability of being chosen for the role given that South Korea sent its NIS chiefs in 2000 and 2007, ahead of each summit.

Still, Cho is known to be trusted by Moon when it comes to dealing with the North, and the cabinet member has the most experience in inter-Korean dialogue within the Unification Ministry.

If Im gets the job, he is expected to be in charge of all practicalities regarding the summit, as Moon did for Roh in 2007 when he served as his chief of staff.

Kim Hong-gul, the youngest son of late President Kim, who now heads the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, said the Blue House will have to dispatch either Im or Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon to North Korea, given Kim Yo-jong’s political standing within the regime.

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