Vastavam web: South Korean lawmakers protested today over a visit by a top North Korean general for the Pyeongchang Olympics, labelling him a war criminal over the 2010 sinking of a warship and calling for his execution.Kim Yong Chol will head an eight-member delegation to arrive on Sunday for the Games’ closing ceremony which will also be attended by US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, creating protocol headaches for Seoul officials.Some 70 lawmakers of the conservative Liberty Korea Party staged a protest outside the presidential Blue House, urging President Moon Jae-in to scrap the visit.
“Kim Yong Chol is a diabolical war criminal who attacked the South. He deserves death by hanging in the street,” the party’s parliamentary floor leader Kim Sung-tae said in a statement.Unification ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun said the South Korean government was aware of widespread misgivings about Kim Yong Chol’s visit to the South, but accepted it as the “chances for improving inter-Korean ties and a peace settlement might be improved”.
The Pyeongchang Olympics have seen a charm offensive by the North, which sent leader Kim Jong Un’s sister to the opening ceremony as it seeks to loosen sanctions against it and weaken the alliance between Seoul and Washington.But Seoul authorities are still struggling over how to manage their presence at the same event.
“At the closing ceremony their lines of movement will not cross,” a senior official of Seoul’s presidential Blue House told Yonhap news agency. “Authorities are in agony over protocol and the seating plan at the closing ceremony.” Ivanka Trump was due to arrive in the South on a commercial flight from the US this afternoon, and have dinner with Moon at the Blue House.Officials said the meal would be Korean food including bibimbap, prepared according to kosher principles and served to a background of traditional Korean music.Kim has also been linked to the shelling of the South’s Yeonpyeong island the same year, which killed four people.
Unification ministry spokesman Baek said the sinking of the Cheonan was “certainly the North’s work” but sought to play down Kim Yong Chol’s role.”There are limits to pinpointing those who were directly responsible”, he said.Kim Yong Chol’s presence is widely seen as a demonstration of how Pyongyang is using the Olympics-driven rapprochement to test the limits of multiple different sanctions imposed on it over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.