N.Korea's Kim Yong-chol Wraps up Reclusive Visit

  • By Lee Yong-soo

    February 28, 2018 11:26

    Senior North Korean apparatchik Kim Yong-chol, the head of the United Front Department, wrapped up a three-day trip to South Korea on Tuesday. Kim waved at South Korean reporters as he crossed the border but did not reply to their barrage of questions.

    Apart from attending the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Kim was mostly holed up in his hotel, where he met with senior South Korean government officials. No photos or videos of the meetings were revealed by the government.

    The government apparently tried to be discreet because Kim masterminded the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in 2010, when he was chief of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance.

    On his last day in South Korea, Kim and his entourage had breakfast with Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon on the 16th floor of the Walkerhill Hotel in eastern Seoul, which had been taken over by the North Korean delegation.

    North Korean apparatchiks Kim Yong-chol (left) and Ri Son-gwon (3rd from left) leave the Walkerhill Hotel in Seoul on Tuesday.

    The Unification Ministry said the two sides "agreed to continue efforts to improve inter-Korean relations and promote permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula," but did not elaborate.

    Kim held six official meetings with South Korean officials as well as some more unofficial contacts. But no agreement of joint statement was released. Chung Sung-jang of the Sejong Institute said, "That shows that both sides discussed extremely sensitive issues but failed to narrow their differences."

    According to government sources, South Korea repeatedly asked North Korea to sit down to denuclearization talks with the U.S., but Kim only stressed the need to improve inter-Korean relations.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Forces Korea commander Vincent Brooks, likened Kim to "an isolated island" when they sat together in the VIP box during the closing ceremony of the Olympics. According to military sources, Brooks said Kim did not even talk to Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who sat in front of him.

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