North Korea's high-level delegation will arrive in South Korea as scheduled to attend the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the government said Saturday.
Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, will cross the border via a western land route Sunday morning for a three-day stay, leading an eight-member delegation, according to Seoul's unification ministry.
Kim stands at the center of a controversy here as he is accused of having masterminded the sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010 that killed 46 sailors.
Conservatives in the South have strongly protested Seoul's decision to accept the delegation, arguing that Pyongyang's inclusion of Kim, a controversial figure who is under domestic and international sanctions, appears intended to sow discord among South Koreans, drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington and weaken the current sanctions regime.
Seoul said it consulted with the U.S. to seek cooperation on Kim's trip as Kim is blacklisted under Washington's unilateral sanctions.
The North's delegation, besides being present for the Olympic ceremony on the evening of their arrival, is expected to meet with President Moon Jae-in and other officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, and Suh Hoon, the chief of South Korea's spy agency.
Kim's trip coincides with a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, to the South, fanning speculation about a possible meeting between the United States and North Korea on the sidelines of the Olympics. She arrived in Seoul on Friday for a four-day stay.
The North's delegation is said to include multiple officials in charge of nuclear issues and diplomacy with the U.S., raising prospects about possible discussion about the North's nuclear standoff. (Yonhap)