The North Korean head of state, Kim Yong Nam and the sister of Pyongyang leader Kim Yo Jong during a hockey game between Switzerland and the Korean unified team on February 10, 2018
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked Seoul for the welcome it gave his sister on his historic visit and said it is important to take advantage of the momentum that the Winter Olympics gave to the dialogue between the two countries.
The official agency indirectly quoted Kim as saying that the leader said it was important to improve „the warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue“ created by the Winter Games.
KCNA also indicated that Kim instructed that „practical steps“ be taken in this regard, without giving further details.
The agency also said that the leader said that South Korea appreciated the presence of its delegates and that the reception it gave them was „impressive“ and thanked Seoul for its „sincere efforts“.
The celebration of the Winter Games in South Korea has allowed a rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang, after months of acute tensions over the missile tests and the advance of the North’s nuclear program.
After having declined for months the South Korean invitations to attend the Games, Kim announced a turnaround in his New Year’s speech, which allowed his athletes to attend the Pyeongchang ski center, accompanied by their cheerleaders and also by a diplomatic delegation that included Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong.
On his trip, Kim Yo Jong shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, encouraged the unified women’s hockey team with him, and conveyed an invitation from his brother Kim Jong Un to participate in a summit in Pyongyang.
North Korea faces a series of sanctions from the UN Security Council to force it to give up its military programs.
– Skepticism –
This is the first official reaction of Kim, the third generation that governs this isolated and impoverished nation, to the visit of his sister.
Every detail of Kim Yo Jong’s visit was examined and interpreted with attention, from his dress, the expressions on his face and even his writing, with a meticulous reading of the words he left in the guest book of the Blue House, the South Korean presidency.
But this visit divided South Koreans about the real possibilities of rapprochement between those who see it as a real opportunity for reconciliation and those who consider Moon to be too soft on Pyongyang and skeptical.
But according to analysts, the depth and scope of the rapprochement once the Olympic Games are over is a question that remains open.
Pyongyang’s Olympic diplomacy has also highlighted the differences between Seoul and its key ally, the United States, on how to manage ties with the North Korean regime, taking into account the threat posed by its nuclear program.
Washington insists that Pyongyang must take concrete steps for a denuclearization before any conversation can begin, but Moon, whose parents escaped the North during an evacuation during the war, has long advocated a closer approach to bring the country to the negotiating table.