South Korea Agrees to Pay for North Koreans to Attend Winter Olympics

Its official the North Koreans will be attending the Winter Olympics:

This photo, provided by Seoul’s unification ministry on Jan. 17, 2018, shows working-level talks between the two Koreas on the North’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

South and North Korea agreed Wednesday to field a joint women’s ice hockey team for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and march together under a “unified Korea” flag at the opening ceremony.

The North will also send a 230-member cheering squad and a 30-member taekwondo demonstration team to the South, according to a joint statement issued after a working-level meeting at the border village of Panmunjom.

The North’s delegation will use a western land route, marking the opening of the cross-border road for the first time since February 2016, when a joint industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong was shut down.   [Yonhap]

Not only are the North Koreans attending the Winter Olympics, but South Korea has agreed to help the Kim regime promote the Masikryong Ski Resort:

The two sides also agreed to hold a joint cultural event at Mount Kumgang on the North Korean east coast before the opening of the Feb. 9-25 Olympics and to conduct joint training of skiers at Masikryong Ski Resort in the North.

Probably the most troubling thing to come out these negotiations and likely a sign of things to come is that South Korea has decided to undercut the sanctions on the Kim regime and pay for North Korea’s delegation to come to the Winter Olympics:

Meanwhile, covering the costs for the delegation has garnered attention as Pyongyang has been placed under U.N. Security Council sanctions which ban the provision of cash to the regime.

In a ministerial-level meeting last week, the South agreed to “provide necessary assistance for delegates from the North.”

Based on previous cases, the South will likely be able to cover costs for the North Korean delegation indirectly, through the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.

The IOC has also expressed its intention to provide financial assistance, within the boundaries set by the UNSC resolutions.  [Korea Times]

First of all why are the North Koreans even being allowed in an international sporting event when Apartheid South Africa was banned?  As bad as Apartheid was, it was nothing compared to the human rights violations and threat to world peace that the Kim regime is.

Secondly why should Seoul pay for their travel expenses?  If the Kim regime has enough money to build nuclear weapons and ICBMs I am sure they can find the money to pay for the travel to Pyeongchang for their delegation.  This is an example that extortion works.  Clearly South Korea is willing to give in to demands from Pyongyang in order to have the Olympics not be compromised by a North Korean provocation. Plus this sets a precedence that it is okay to undercut the sanctions on the Kim regime.

Wouldn’t it be funny if President Trump sends out a tweet asking the South Korean government to pay for the travel expenses for the US Olympic delegation as well?

Tweet of the Day: How Excited Are South Koreans About Current Talks?

What Will South Korea Pay for North Korean Participation in the Winter Olympics?

The Kim regime has officially agreed to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics:

This photo, taken by the Joint Press Corps on Jan. 9, 2018, shows South Korea’s chief delegate Cho Myoung-gyon (L) shaking hands with his North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon before holdinghigh-level talks between South and North Korea. (Yonhap)

North Korea on Tuesday accepted Seoul’s proposal to hold military talks to reduce tensions and agreed to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in the South, according to a joint press statement issued after their high-level talks.

In their first formal dialogue in two years at the border village of Panmunjom, they also agreed to reactivate cooperation and exchanges through diverse levels of talks including a high-level meeting, Seoul officials said.

The agreement marked a major breakthrough in the years of frosty ties between the two countries and in last year’s heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile provocations.

North Korea offered to send high-ranking officials, cheerleaders, performing artists, taekwondo demonstration teams and journalists in addition to athletes. The South promised to provide them with necessary conveniences.

They will hold working-level talks to further discuss details of the North’s participation.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but those of us who have watched North Korea for years know they are not participating in the Winter Olympics out of good will.  There will undoubtedly be a bill to be paid by the South.  One way the South may end up paying is if the North Koreans demand inflated travel costs:

North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics will require agreements over a series of logistics issues, such as how to transport the North Korean delegation to the host city, where to accomodate them and who will ultimately cover the bill.  [Newsweek]

Why should the South pay for the Kim regime to attend the Olympics?  It should be the responsibility of the Kim regime to pay their own way like all the other countries.  If the North Koreans have enough money to lob missiles everywhere and set off nuclear bombs they have enough money to cover travel and lodging for their delegation going to the Winter Olympics.

If the ROK government gives in to covering travel and lodging costs I hope President Trump tweets that he will send the ROK government the US’s travel bill as well.

Analyst Believes Olympic Talks Are A Means for North Korea to Get Concessions and Buy Time for More Testing

Here is one theory on what the Kim regime is attempting accomplish with its offer of talks with South Korea over its attendance at the upcoming Winter Olympic games:

But perhaps Kim is a smarter student of the cutthroat game of geopolitics than we give him credit for—seeking to delay a showdown on terms more favorable to him. What if Kim keeps the talks focused on his nation’s participation at the games—and asks for nothing in return?

If talks go smoothly and North Korea does indeed join the games he appears like a winner back home, having secured his nation’s place at the Winter Games. He could even send his sister, Kim Yo Jong, as the lead representative.

Kim could even score another PR victory: imagine athletes from a divided Korea marching into the Olympic stadium together under a unified flag—with members of the Trump family sitting in the same stadium looking on. With there being almost no downside to this for Kim, I would argue this is very likely what North Korea is banking on.

And here is where Kim could get quite slick. He could leverage the positive nature of the talks to propose many other sweeteners to enhance inter-Korean ties—restarting joint development projects, offering family reunifications and even going so far to propose an inter-Korean summit between the two heads of state. This would occur of course while not talking to the Trump Administration—and quite on purpose, dodging key questions about Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. Negotiations would move slowly—with North Korea adding to its list of demands over time, but not quite sabotaging the talks. Negotiations seem to start to drag on, but overall, there is hope—just what Kim is wants.  [Harry J. Kazianis – Center for the National Interest]

You can read the rest at the link, but the analysis continues that eventually the Kim regime will restart missile tests while the negotiations continue.  The restarting of the missile tests is to perfect the reentry technology they have yet to master.  The talks will buy them time to do this which they may otherwise not have under the current dynamic of possible military action from the US.  With ongoing negotiations the ROK may not support any US military action in response to continued testing.  This has the potential of driving a wedge in the US-ROK alliance if the two allies do not agree with how to respond to renewed testing.

Negotiators and Topics Identified for This Week’s Inter-Korean Talks

Here is what will be discussed and who will be discussing it at this week’s inter-Korean talks:

This file photo shows Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L), the chief South Korea delegate for high-level inter-Korean talks scheduled for Jan. 9, 2018, and his North Korean counterpart Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs. (Yonhap).

South Korea will seek to discuss ways to ease military tensions and reunite divided families during this week’s high-level talks with North Korea, Seoul’s chief delegate said Monday.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon made the remarks one day before South and North Korea will hold their first formal talks in more than two years to discuss the North’s potential participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and ways to improve their ties.

“Basically, the two sides will focus on the Olympics. When discussing inter-Korean relations, the government will seek to raise the issue of war-torn families and ways to ease military tensions,” Cho told a group of reporters.

Cho will lead a five-member government delegation to the first inter-Korean dialogue since December 2015. The North’s chief negotiator is Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of North Korea’s state agency in charge of affairs with the South.

The South’s delegation also includes Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, who has a range of experience in inter-Korean talks. It will be the first time that the country’s top point man on unification and the vice minister are included together in a delegation.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but what is interesting is that the North Korean lead representative Ri Son-gwon is the long time aid of North Korean General Kim Yong-chol.  Kim is believed to have been the person who planned the sinking of the ROK Naval vessel the Cheonan and shelled Yeonpyeong island in 2010.

The selection of RI as a negotiator makes me wonder if he was specifically chosen to remind the ROK negotiators that if the Kim regime does not get what they want from the talks more Cheonan and Yeonpyeong island attacks could happen during the Winter Olympics.

Will Kim Jong-un Send His Sister To Attend Winter Olympics in South Korea?

The speculation is the Kim Jong-un will send a high ranking political official along with sports officials to the Winter Olympics:

In Dec. 30 footage on North Korea’s state-run Korean Central Television of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s attendance of a celebratory performance at the 5th Conference of Party Cell Chairs, Kim is shown climbing the steps of the performance venue while talking to his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, vice director of the Korean Workers’ Party. (Pyongyang/KCNA, Yonhap News)

A North Korean delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics could be led by Kim Yo-jong or by Choe Ryong-hae, the second-most powerful person in the North.

During his personally delivered New Year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his hope that the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics would be a success and declared his willingness to take the necessary measures, such as sending a delegation to South Korea. The delegation that Kim mentioned would presumably include International Olympic Committee member Jang Ung, National Sports Guidance Committee chairman (NSGC) Choe Hwi and Minister of Sports Kim Il-guk.  [Hankyoreh]

You can read more at the link, but if he sends his sister to South Korea I think that is a sign that Kim Jong-un is really pushing his charm offensive on South Korea to get concessions after an extended period of provocations.  Having his sister attend the games would give North Korea a softer touch internationally with all the cameras on her instead of the sternly faced old men that usually attend these events.

Moon Administration Wants to Open Talks with North Korea Starting Next Week

The Moon administration seems giddy after Kim Jong-un’s New Year message offering to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics:

This photo, taken on Jan. 2, 2017, shows Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon proposing high-level talks with North Korea next week. (Yonhap)

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon proposed Tuesday holding high-level talks with North Korea, Jan. 9, to discuss its participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Cho’s offer came in response to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s message, in which he said he was willing to send a delegation of athletes to the South’s first Winter Olympics.

Minister Cho suggested holding the cross-border dialogue at the truce village of Panmunjeom. He said Seoul is open to discuss the timing, venues, methods and other preparatory steps regarding the talks with Pyongyang.

“We propose to hold high-level talks on Jan. 9 at the Peace House (on the South Korean side of Panmunjeom),” Cho said during a press conference at the ministry in downtown Seoul. “We’re willing to talk with the North freely over the necessary steps both sides must take. To do so, the dialogue channel at Panmunjeom should be restored promptly. We expect to hear a positive response from the North soon.”

If North Korea accepts, this will be the first cross-border dialogue since President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017. It will also be the highest-level contact between the two Koreas since December 2015 when vice minister-level officials met.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but for long time Korea watchers like myself this is just another example of the pattern with North Korea of raising tensions with provocations and then conducting a charm offensive to get concessions.  Once they get the concessions they will then break whatever agreement they made and blame the US and the ROK and restart the provocation cycle.

What is different this time is President Trump seems determined to enforce stricter sanctions and President Moon seems determined to start another Sunshine Policy particularly trying to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex.  I can easily see a return to the failed Sunshine Policy causing tension politically between the US and the ROK which is likely one of the goals of the Kim regime if they do implement a charm offensive.