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Top North Korean Officials Make Surprise Visit to South for Incheon Asian Games
Changing Mood
Top North Korean Officials Make Surprise Visit to South for Incheon Asian Games
  • By matthew
  • October 6, 2014, 06:00
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From left: Hwang Pyong-so, Choe Ryong-hae, and Kim Yang-gon wave as the North Korean squad enters the stadium for the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian games.
From left: Hwang Pyong-so, Choe Ryong-hae, and Kim Yang-gon wave as the North Korean squad enters the stadium for the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian games.

 

The three most powerful men of the North Korean regime aside from Kim Jong-un made a surprise visit to Seoul on Oct. 4 under the pretext of participating in the closing ceremony of the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. The unexpected visitors were Hwang Pyong-so, the director of the military's General Political Bureau and widely believed to be the second-most powerful man in North Korea; Choe Ryong-hae, the Workers' Party secretary; and Kim Yang-gon, head of the United Front Department dealing with inter-Korean relations.

The surprise visit to Seoul is raising the possibility of better inter-Korean relations. In the meantime, the recent U.N. sanction against bulk cash is expected to emerge as an important issue.

The purpose of the North Korean figures’ visits at this time includes improvement in the relations between the two Koreas and economic cooperation through attraction of South Korean capital. Resumption of tourism to Mt. Kumgang and cancellation of the May 24 measure that could be discussed in this context in the near future could arouse some controversy as to whether such activities are against the U.N. sanction prohibiting a huge cash inflow into the North. The U.N. Security Council adopted Resolutions 2087 and 2094 to that end in January and March 2013 after the launch of a long-range rocket and the third nuclear experiment by North Korea, respectively.

At present, the South Korean government’s official stance is that the resumption of tourism is subject to an authoritative interpretation of the U.N. Security Council. “If the United Nations considers funds for tourism as bulk cash, it can block the tourism, even if both Koreas agree to it,” a representative of Seoul said, adding, “In that case, the hard-earned chance for the restoration of relations could be blown away.”

However, some experts point out that the tourism funds have nothing to do with the sanction, and Seoul cannot postpone the resumption for it. “Tourism to Mt. Kumgang is a legitimate contract between the two Koreas, and the funds cannot be seen as the bulk cash, because the money flows into Pyongyang through normal banking procedures,” said professor Yang Mu-jin at the University of North Korean Studies, continuing, “The Park Geun-hye administration’s pessimistic view that the funds would be used in nuclear missile development has to be changed.”