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Kim Yo Jong Fascinates, And Puzzles, In South Korea

12 February 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shakes hands with Kim Yo-Jong (C), North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's sister on February 11, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea.

Invited by Moon for lunch at Seoul's presidential palace, Kim Yo Jong verbally delivered her brother's hope for a summit with Moon in Pyongyang, a meeting that she said would help significantly improve ties after an extended period of animosity.

The North Korean diplomatic initiative comes amid growing worldwide pressure, led by the United States, aimed at imposing maximum economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime.

After arriving in Seoul on Friday, the North Koreans attended a chilly opening ceremony at Pyeongchang's Olympic Stadium, taking their place among world dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who seemed to go out of their way to not acknowledge the North Koreans despite sitting just few feet (meters) away.

At the the Olympics' opening ceremony on Friday night, Kim Yo Jong sat behind Moon (and Pence) - but Saturday night, she and Kim Yong Nam sat next to Moon and IOC President Thomas Bach as they watched the unified Korean women's hockey team play their historic first game.

"I never thought I would visit (the South) so suddenly and believed much would be odd and different but I saw many things that were similar or the same", said Kim Yo Jong in a toast during Sunday's dinner, adding she hoped to meet the "friendly faces" before her later in Pyongyang.

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By also sending a youthful, photogenic individual who would surely draw worldwide attention at the Olympics, Kim might have also been trying to construct a fresher image of the country, particularly in face of US efforts to use the Olympics as an occasion to highlight the North's brutal human rights record.

Pence did not directly address news of the invitation when asked.

The South Korean government said Sunday that Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon would host a high-level luncheon at a hotel in eastern Seoul for ten North Korean delegates and 12 members from the South including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan.

The South Korean leader said in response "let's create the environment for that to be able to happen", Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

The North Koreans were to fly back to Pyongyang later Sunday on a private jet, wrapping up a three-day trip.

"The inter-Korean relations should be mended by the parties concerned at any cost", Moon was quoted by the agency as adding.

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Are these Winter Games having the effect South Korea had hoped, in thawing relations with the north? The North Korean delegation also included the country's 90-year-old head of state, Kim Yong Nam.

However, South Korea's main opposition party warned any talks between the two Koreas where the scrapping of North Korea's nuclear programme was not a precondition would only "benefit the enemy".

"President Moon must balance his desire for North-South reconciliation with his policy of denuclearization", Manning said.

"There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile programs", Pence said.

"Moon should realize that offering economic benefits for symbolic North Korean gestures is not only ineffectual but would themselves risk being violations of United Nations resolutions", Klingner said.

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Kim Yo Jong Fascinates, And Puzzles, In South Korea