About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea plans to send a nine-member entourage to accompany DPRK leader Kim Jong Un at Friday’s inter-Korean summit, the South Korean presidential office announced on Thursday.
The delegation will feature Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, as well as Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee and director of the party’s United Front Department.
Im Jong-seok, Chairman of the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit Preparation Committee, also told press that the presence of DPRK First Lady Ri Sol Ju at the summit has yet to been confirmed, though Seoul reportedly hopes that she will attend a banquet scheduled to be held in the evening.
President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) Kim Yong Nam, DPRK foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, chairman of the DPRK’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) Ri Son Gwon and vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the WPK and chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee Choe Hwi are also part of the DPRK delegation.
The five North Korean officials previously traveled to the South in February on the occasion of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Choe was required to obtain a temporary exemption from UN sanctions for the visit: United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2356 – approved last year – placed him under an international travel ban and an asset freeze.
Another controversial official is Kim Yong Chol, who visited the South in February and who has been described as the “mastermind” of the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan.
Ri Son Gwon, too, visited the South twice during the Olympic season and served as chief delegate to high-level inter-Korean talks earlier in the year.
Speaking at Thursday’s news conference, Im said Pyongyang’s decision to include “core military officers and diplomats” in the delegation had some as a surprise.
“Our understanding is that Pyongyang has included the military officers in the entourage because the issues of the denuclearization, establishing permanent peace, and easing tensions between the two Koreas are being treated with high priority,” he said.
Also notably included in the delegation is Ri Su Yong, who serves as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) and politburo member of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), and who NK News reported earlier on Monday had last week suddenly canceled a planned trip to Europe.
In addition, Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Ri Myong Su and Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Pak Yong Sik will accompany the DPRK leader tomorrow.
Seoul last week announced its six-member delegation for the inter-Korean summit, which includes Im Jong-seok in his capacity as Chief Presidential Secretary, National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong, and National Intelligence Service (NIS) director Suh Hoon.
Unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, defense minister Song Young-moo, and foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha will also accompany President Moon.
Thursday saw Seoul add Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Jeong Kyeong-doo to the ROK delegation.
SCHEDULE FOR THE SUMMIT
The two leaders are scheduled to hold their first-ever meeting at 0930 KST at the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in the truce village of Panmunjom, Im said at the news briefing.
President Moon will greet Kim at the MDL line in front of the Military Armistice Commission meeting room.
An official welcoming ceremony will be held at 0940 KST and the morning session of the inter-Korean summit will begin at 1030 KST.
In the afternoon, Kim and Moon will jointly plant a pine tree “on the MDL, which has symbolized confrontation and division over the past 65 years,” Im said, after holding separate luncheons and taking a brief rest.
After the commemorative tree-planting event, Kim and Moon will likely take a walk and hold a private conversation before moving to the Peace House for further meetings.
The two leaders will then sign an agreement and make an announcement.
Im told press on Thursday, however, that the location and method of the announcement will be determined by the content of the agreement.
A welcoming banquet is then set to begin at 1830 KST and will be followed by a farewell ceremony at which the two leaders will watch a video with the theme “A New Spring Enjoyed Together.”
MURKY WATERS AHEAD
Speaking at the news conference, Im discussed some of the difficulties which Seoul sees arising during the upcoming summit.
The increasingly advanced nature of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, he said, made this week’s meeting “fundamentally different” from previous nuclear agreements with the DPRK.
“This makes the summit hard,” Im told assembled media, adding that the scope of any denuclearization agreement could only be determined when the two leaders actually meet.
Seoul will, however, seek to confirm Kim Jong Un’s desire to denuclearize, Im said.
“If we can stipulate there is a clear determination for the denuclearization, by extension, and we can confirm it means the complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, the meeting will be very successful with regard to the denuclearization,” he added.
Edited by Oliver Hotham