Uproar in S. Korea over visit by hawkish N. Korean official

김영철, 천안함•연평도 배후로 여겨진 인물... 북한은 왜 그를 택했나

Many question why Kim Yong-chol is set to lead Pyongyang's high-level delegation to the closing ceremony of global games.
He's been believed to have led some of the worst North Korean provocations that took lives here in the nation.
Oh Jung-hee has an analysis of what could have driven the regime to make the controversial choice.
North Korea is once again sending a high-level delegation to South Korea for the closing ceremony of the Olympics,... but the official chosen to lead the group... has raised a lot of eyebrows.
That's Kim Yong-chol, the vice chair of the North Korean ruling party's central committee.
Kim is the man believed to be responsible for two deadly North Korean attacks on South Korea -- the sinking of the warship Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors,... as well as the artillery attack on the border island of Yeonpyeong-do that killed 4 South Koreans, two of them civilians.
Both occured in 2010 when Kim headed the regime's intelligence agency.
Amid the uproar over Kim's visit, the South Korean government says... Kim was never definitively confirmed to be the mastermind.

"Regarding the sinking of the Cheonan, the defense ministry said at the National Assembly in 2010... that it's difficult to identify who specifically was responsible."

At the time, though, the defense ministry did say there was a "high possibility" that Kim was behind the attacks.
On Friday, the ministry was quiet, saying only that it will follow the government's decision.

So why would Pyongyang choose a figure like Kim Yong-chol?
It's been speculated that the North wants to test Seoul's willingness to improve ties by sending someone highly controversial and hawkish.
But some experts say... Kim was always a natural choice... since he's considered an expert on inter-Korean relations.

"From a practical point of view, Kim Yong-chol's a figure who can actually discuss ways to improve inter-Korean relations and set the agenda for prospective talks. There's no other person in the regime who can actually achieve a fruitful and meaningful dialogue."

The South Korean government says it agreed to Kim Yong-chol's visit because he's a key official in charge of inter-Korean relations... and because his participation could improve the chances for peace.
Amid the controversy, the government is asking for understanding... and for South Koreans to look at the situation holistically.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.

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