UPDATE: We contacted the UN for comment about this story and received the following:
The Spokesperson for the Secretary-General is aware of a report in the South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo about a possible visit by the Secretary-General to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and has the following to say: “This report is totally baseless. I wish to make it absolutely clear that there are no plans for or discussions about such a visit by the Secretary-General as reported.”
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is said to be seeking to visit to North Korea in March to discuss the prospect of the two Koreas fielding a joint team at a forthcoming UN organized sports event to be held in South Korea.
The development comes hot on the heels of news that Google’s Chairman might be visiting North Korea before the end of the month, a move that the U.S. State Department today said would be “not very helpful”.
According to South Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo, Kang Un-tae, the mayor of South Korea’s six largest city of Gwanju, said:
I heard that Secretary General Ban will visit Pyongyang to discuss the participation of the two Koreas in the 2015 Gwangju Summer Universiad as a unified team. He is said to have the conviction that the first participation of both Koreas as one team in the international sports event will contribute to world peace as well as reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula.
The U.N. has pledged strong support for Seoul’s plan to form a single team with Pyongyang for the 2015 Universiad. Wilfried Lemke, the U.N. secretary general’s special adviser on sport for development and peace, is planning to visit Pyongyang this month to negotiate with North Korea.
The United Nations Office of Sports for Development and Peace, an arm of the UN dedicated to spreading peace and helping countries attain the Millennium Development Goals, is said to have been working with the Organizing Committee of the Gwangju Summer Universiad on conducting a joint project since summer last year.
A diplomatic source also told the Dong-A Ilbo that Ban would be highly likely to also deliver a message from Park Geun-hye if he was to go, due to her taking office just weeks before the predicted visit.
This wouldn’t be the first time Ban Ki Moon has proposed going to North Korea, with reports emerging in October that he was then considering a trip to the DPRK. As he accepted the Seoul Peace Prize in 2012, he told reporters
I am ready to play my part to work toward a peaceful and denuclearized Korean Peninsula, including through my own personal engagement such as a visit to North Korea when the situation seems right.
NK News will have more on this story in the coming hours.