Kim Yong-nam will be the highest ranking official to visit the ROK
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea confirmed on Monday that it will send a delegation led by its head of state to the Republic of Korea for Friday's opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang amid what has been a joint reconciliation effort by the two countries.
Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly, will be the highest-ranking DPRK official to visit the ROK.
"A high-level delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea led by Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly, will soon visit the ROK to attend the opening ceremony of the 23rd Pyeongchang Winter Olympics," Xinhua News Agency quoted the DPRK's official Korean Central News Agency as saying.
Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman for ROK President Moon Jaein, said on Monday that Seoul welcomed the visit.
The spokesman said the top legislator's trip reflected Pyongyang's will to improve inter-Korean relations and make the Winter Olympics a successful "peace Olympics" while restoring inter-Korean relations and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula.
He added that the ROK will warmly and courteously greet the delegation as the DPRK has shown its "sincere and earnest attitude" by dispatching its top legislator.
Li Chengri, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Kim's visit reflected a willingness by the DPRK to improve inter-Korean relations.
"The visit will pave the way for further improvement of the two countries' relations and lay the foundation for the possibilities of Moon visiting the DPRK," Li said.
The DPRK on Sunday notified the ROK of its decision to send the delegation from Friday to Sunday using a recently restored hotline, the ROK's Unification Ministry said, adding that the delegation will include three delegates and 18 supporting officials.
According to the ROK's presidential office, the country will prepare various communication opportunities for the visiting DPRK officials during their stay, including the high-level inter-Korean talks.
The ROK's Yonhap News Agency said on Monday that Moon "is known to be hoping" that the United States and the DPRK will hold talks as senior officials from both sides arrive in Pyeongchang.
During a telephone call on Friday with US President Donald Trump, Moon expressed his wish that the US Vice-President Mike Pence's visit to the ROK for the Winter Olympics can become a significant turning point for improved inter-Korean relations and peace on the peninsula, as he saw a possibility for the inter-Korean talks naturally leading to a dialogue between the US and the DPRK on easing tensions.
Wang Junsheng, an associate researcher at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the DPRK hopes to use the Winter Olympics as an opportunity to improve its international image.
"The international community not only hopes the Winter Olympics will be held successfully in the atmosphere of cooperation between the two countries, but also hopes to further ease the tensions in the peninsula," Wang said.
Though the Games is considered by both sides to be an opportunity, however, it is still hard to see practical results if Pyongyang is reluctant to show concessions on denuclearization, Wang said.