North Korea to send ceremonial head Kim Yong-nam to South Korea

North Korea is to send its highest ranking official for years to the South amid an easing of tensions during the Winter Olympics.

Kim Yong-nam, the ceremonial head of state, will lead a 22-member delegation to the South beginning on Friday, said the South’s Unification Ministry.

The two Koreas’ athletes will march under one flag at the opening ceremony.

The North’s participation in the Games is widely seen as a diplomatic manoeuvre by Pyongyang.

North Korea currently faces growing international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes.
Arriving by ship
North Korea on Monday proposed sending an art troupe to the Games by ferry, a move that would require an exemption from bilateral sanctions.

Pyongyang proposed that its delegation use the Mangyongbong 92, a ferry that usually operates between North Korea and Russia, for transportation and as accommodation for the group, according to the South’s unification ministry.

All North Korean ships have been banned from entering South Korean ports since 2010.

“We’re seeking to apply an exemption… to support a successful hosting of the Olympics,” South Korean ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a press conference.

On Sunday, the united Korean women’s ice hockey team played its first match, but lost the friendly against Sweden 1-3.

Sunday’s outing was the first and only practice match for the newly minted Korean squad.

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Kim Yong-nam is the head of the parliament in the North and will be the highest-level official to visit South Korea in four years.

An unnamed official from the South’s presidential Blue House told the BBC that they believe this reflected a willingness on the part of North Korea to improve inter-Korean relations, and demonstrated the North’s sincerity.

Mr Kim will lead a delegation of three other officials and 18 support staff, the unification ministry said.

It did not say whether he would attend Friday’s opening ceremony of the Games in Pyeongchang, a county in the mountainous east of South Korea.



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