Controversial North Korean official arrives in South Korea, amid fierce protest

South Korean activists burn a North Korean flag (L) along a defaced portrait of North Korean Workers' Party (KWP) Central Committee vice chairman Kim Yong-chol (R) during a rally against the upcoming visit of a North Korean high-ranking delegation to South Korea. Photo courtesy of EPA-EFE/Kim Chul-soo

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (UPI) — Fierce protests continued throughout the early hours of Sunday in South Korea near the inter-Korean border, condemning the arrival of a high-ranking North Korean official believed to be responsible for the sinking of a South Korean ship.

Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, arrived in the South at around 9:50 a.m., leading a high-level delegation to attend the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

Kim is suspected of masterminding and ordering the attack on South Korea’s Cheonan warship in 2010, which sank and left 46 people dead.

Family members of bereaved victims and conservative politicians have opposed the visit, demanding that it be scrapped.

However, the government has asked for the public’s understanding, saying Kim is the “right person” to discuss inter-Korean relations and denuclearization talks.

Around 10 a.m., the main conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party formed a blockade in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, to physically block the North Korean official from entering the South, Money Today reported.

However, an hour later, it appeared that Kim had been transported through a back road to avoid the protesters.

“Kim Yong-chol has entered through a doghole, thanks to all citizens who guarded the main Tong-il Bridge,” said LKP Chairman Hong Jun-pyo. “This shows that South Korea is alive and kicking.” Hong vowed that there would be unrest at the Walkerhill Hotel where the North Korean official was headed.

A crowd of 100,000 is scheduled to protest in the central area of Seoul on Sunday afternoon. The North Korean delegation is expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon during its three-day visit.

Observers speculate the two sides will discuss the improvement of cross-border relations as well as North Korea’s nuclear issue.

There is also speculation that the Pyongyang officials will engage with a U.S. delegation led by Ivanka Trump, SBS reported.


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