Kim Jong-un meets envoys from South Korea over dinner
A 10-member delegation left for North Korea in the afternoon on a mission to persuade the Kim Jong-un regime to join denuclearization negotiations of some sort. Starting at 6 p.m., Kim hosted a dinner for the delegation headed by Chung Eui-yong, the special envoy of Moon, according to Kim Eui-kyeom, presidential spokesman.
The delegation was welcomed at the airport in Pyongyang by top North Korean officials including Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee of the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the spokesman said.
After a 10-minute talk in a VIP reception room at the airport, the delegation moved to Gobangsan Guest House, where they will stay for the night. Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, who is also known to be director of the committee’s intelligence arm, the United Front Department, received them at the guest house.
The two sides had a 15-minute discussion on the delegation’s schedule during their stay in the North and agreed to hold a reception and dinner with the North Korean leader Kim starting at 6 p.m., the spokesman said.
It is the first time that the leader of the reclusive communist regime met a delegation from a country with which it has no diplomatic ties. In the past, he met with delegates from China, Cuba and Syria.
In a press conference hours before the delegation’s departure, Chung explained his mission. “I will clearly deliver the president’s strong and firm resolve to build a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and true, permanent peace by keeping the flow of inter-Korean talks and improvement of relations,” Chung said.
“In order to achieve the goal, I want to have a serious discussion with the North on plans to continue not only inter-Korean talks but also the North’s dialogue with the United States and the international community,” Chung said.
Chung, head of the National Security Office of the Blue House, led a 10-person delegation on a two-day trip to Pyongyang. In the delegation are five special envoys including Chung and Suh Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service, Chun Hae-sung, vice minister of unification, Kim Sang-gyun, second deputy director of the NIS, and Yun Kun-young, a senior Blue House official in charge of monitoring state affairs.
The delegation also included five support staff from the Blue House. No reporter accompanied the trip.
The delegation, carrying a letter from Moon to Kim, left Seoul Airport, a military air base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, around 1:50 p.m. on a special flight. They arrived at the Sunan Airport of Pyongyang at 2:50 p.m., according to the Blue House.
The trip reciprocates the North’s sending of a special envoy last month for the opening of the Winter Olympic Games. Kim Yo-jong, the North Korean leader’s sister, came to the South, met with Moon and delivered her brother’s invitation for an inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang.
The two-day trip by the special envoys is the first of its kind since Moon took office in May.
According to the Blue House, Chung and Suh will visit Washington after they return from Pyongyang to give briefings about their trip.
Chung will also brief the heads of the ruling and opposition parties on Wednesday about his mission.
North Korea has been issuing exceptionally speedy reports about the latest developments in inter-Korean affairs since Seoul and Pyongyang restored contacts in January. The state-run radios and wire service Korean Central News Agency reported the special envoys’ arrival at around 5:35 p.m.
Earlier in the morning, the news agency issued a one-sentence report saying the South Korean president’s delegation, headed by Chung, would soon visit Pyongyang.
BY SER MYO-JA [email@example.com]