North Korea is sending a top general suspected of masterminding several deadly attacks on South Korea to the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, according to the South Korean government.
General Kim Yong Chol will visit South Korea this Sunday as part of an eight-member delegation for a three-day visit that will include attendance at the closing ceremony, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification revealed Thursday. Kim’s inclusion is noteworthy as he is believed to have orchestrated two attacks that left 50 South Koreans dead.
Kim is a hawk who South Korean intelligence suspects ordered the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan in March 2010, when a North Korean midget submarine torpedoed the Pohang-class navy corvette, killing 46 South Korean sailors. In November that same year, North Korea launched a devastating artillery strike on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, ending the lives of four South Korean people and injuring more than a dozen others. South Korea believes Kim was responsible for this attack as well, according to the South’s Yonhap News Agency.
North Korea denies any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan.
Kim also sent spies to South Korea to assassinate a high-ranking defector speaking ill of the Kim regime in 2010, according to a pair of North Korean agents who were captured during the mission. He may also have been behind a landmine blast at the inter-Korean border in August 2015 that severely injured two South Korean soldiers, as he was promoted almost immediately afterwards, the Korea Herald reported.
The general, who is now the vice-chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee in charge of inter-Korean affairs, previously served as the head of the notorious Reconnaissance General Bureau, the infamous spy agency suspected of carrying out a cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014.
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Kim is blacklisted by both the U.S. and South Korean governments for his involvement in attacks on South Korea. South Korea is reportedly in talks with the U.S. about clearing the way for his visit.
“We expect the high-level delegation’s participation in the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to help advance the process of settling peace on the Korean Peninsula including the improvement of inter-Korean relations and denuclearization,” the unification ministry said in a statement Thursday, adding, “Against this backdrop, from this standpoint, we will accept the visit of North Korea’s high-level delegation to the South.”
Kim has been involved in negotiations with the South in the past, most recently discussions pertaining to the cessation of hostilities after a shootout at the border in 2014.
“Kim is in charge of South Korea affairs, which is why we’re accepting him as we believe it would help improve inter-Korean relations and resolve the matter of denuclearization,” South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told South Korea’s parliament.
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