South Korea President Shakes Hands with Northern Ceremonial Head before Olympics

Friday, 9 February, 2018 - 10:00
Asharq Al-Awsat

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shook hands on Friday with the ceremonial head of North Korea ahead of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Kim Yong Nam, who is officially leading Pyongyang's diplomatic delegation to the Games, met Moon at a leaders' reception ahead of the opening ceremony.

The sister of North Korean leader Kim Yo Jong had also arrived in the South on Friday, but she was not seen at the handshaking meeting.

Kim Yong Nam is the highest-level Northern official ever to visit the South, and was meeting his third South Korean president after participating in North-South summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007.

Moon and his wife received their guests one by one and the two men smiled as they shook hands in a relaxed manner.

On his left lapel Kim wore a badge depicting the North's founder Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's father.

Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook both wore lapel badges of Soohorang, the dancing white tiger mascot of the Winter Games.

A seating plan for the dinner shown on South Korean television showed Kim Yong Nam seated at the top table, in between Olympics chief Thomas Bach and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and directly opposite US Vice President Mike Pence.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also among the group.

Guterres said he hopes the Olympic Games can give a small boost to relations between North and South Korea.

He met Friday in Pyeongchang with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

The UN chief added: “Obviously in the present context there is a lot of attention to the message of peace in relation to the Korean Peninsula."

He said he wants to make clear that "the Olympic message of peace is not local. It's universal."

"It is valid everywhere where we struggle to try to address the very many conflicts we are facing."

Bach lauded Guterres' presence at the games, stressing: "We are enjoying an excellent cooperation together in many areas."

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