North Korea to troll South Korea, U.S. again at Olympics Closing Ceremony

Josh Martin
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Step aside, Denmark. North Korea is gunning for that No. 1 spot among the world’s most petulant political trolls, with the 2018 Winter Olympics serving as its latest launchpad. After sending Kim Jong-un’s sister to PyeongChang for the Opening Ceremony, the North will kick things up a notch at Sunday’s Closing Ceremony with a delegation led by a man connected to the murder of dozens of South Koreans.

That man, according to CNN’s Taehoon Lee, is Kim Yong-chol, the Vice Chairman of the Party Central Committee. The South’s Ministry of Unification announced on Thursday that Kim will join Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the “Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country,” and six support staffers, who are scheduled to arrive in South Korea together by way of the Gyeongui rail line mere hours before the ceremony begins.

Before he was one of the power players on the Party Central Committee, Kim was the chief of North Korea’s Reconnaissance Bureau, a military intelligence unit that’s been pegged by Seoul for playing a role in a torpedo attack that, back in 2010, sunk Cheonan, a South Korean warship, and killed 46 of 104 personnel on the vessel that day. South Korea’s findings in the tragedy stemmed from an investigation that included input from the United States, Sweden, Great Britain and Australia.

General Kim Yong-chol will reportedly be part of North Korea’s delegation to the Closing Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
General Kim Yong-chol will reportedly be part of North Korea’s delegation to the Closing Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Despite the North’s decision to send a potentially divisive figure like Kim, the South struck an optimistic tone toward what the upcoming interaction could mean for relations across the Korean Peninsula.

“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,” South Korea said in a statement.

Seoul, though, has no plans to help Pyongyang’s emissaries connect with those coming from the United States, including First Daughter Ivanka Trump.

“The Blue House will not facilitate a meeting between Ivanka and North Korea’s high-level delegation,” a government spokesman said.

All told, the North’s choice of representatives figures to put the South in yet another diplomatic pickle. Kim Yong-chol is the subject of sanctions from both the U.S. and South Korea, including travel restrictions imposed from afar. There’s no word yet whether Kim’s trip would violate those specific sanctions.

Still, the heat will once again be on South Korea to figure out how to play nice with both North Korea and the U.S. without offending one or the other. As far as dirty jobs are concerned, then, South Korean President Moon Jae-in deserves some air time with Mike Rowe, however he handles this delicate detente.

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