North Korea is sending the suspected mastermind of deadly attacks on the South to the Olympics

Heading south.
Heading south.
Image: Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool
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Having already dispatched leader Kim Jong-un’s sister to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, North Korea is sending another big gun to mark the closing of the games.

South Korean officials said today (Feb. 22) that 72-year-old general Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the central committee of North Korea’s Workers’ Party of Korea, will lead an eight-member delegation to Pyeongchang for a three-day visit on Sunday (Feb. 25).

Kim’s visit, the latest in a series of diplomatic efforts to repair relations between Pyongyang and Seoul, was met by strong protests from opposition parties in South Korea. Kim, who previously headed the North’s reconnaissance bureau, is suspected in South Korea of being the mastermind behind two major attacks on the country in 2010, including the sinking of a warship, which killed 46 sailors, and the shelling of an island, which killed a handful of soldiers and civilians. Kim is also blacklisted by both the US and South Korea.

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics was attended by Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong, who is also blacklisted by the US. Kim Yo-jong came close to brushing shoulders with US vice president Mike Pence, who also attended the opening ceremony. With him as his guest was Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, the teenager who died in the US in a coma shortly after being released from detention in North Korea.

Pence’s office this week said that North Korea canceled a planned meeting between the two delegations at the last minute.

There’s another opportunity for an awkward encounter at the closing ceremony. US president Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump will also be attending—she lands in South Korea tomorrow (Feb. 23), and will have dinner with South Korean president Moon Jae-in.