South Korean lawmakers protested Friday 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.
Kim is widely blamed for a spate of attacks against the South including the torpedoing nearly eight years ago of the Seoul’s Cheonan corvette, with the loss of 46 lives.
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.
“Even if the heavens split in two, we cannot allow such a heinous criminal — who must be sliced to death — to be invited to the Olympics closing ceremony,” he said.
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”.
At a Blue House dinner Friday evening with the South Korean president, Ivanka Trump — who is special advisor to her father — said she was there to “reaffirm our commitment to our maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean peninsula is denuclearised”.
Moon however stressed that engagement with the North had defused tensions between the neighbours.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games has served as an opportunity for us to engage in active discussions between the two Koreas and this has led to lowering of tensions on the peninsula and an improvement in inter-Korean relations,” Moon said.
“I also believe that such developments are thanks to President Trump’s strong support for inter-Korean dialogue,” he added.
The president also told Ivanka Trump in a separate meeting that the US and South Korea “must seize this hard-earned opporunity” to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, Yonhap news agency quoted Moon’s chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan as saying. (AFP)