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N. Korean leader's younger sister to visit S. Korea for Olympics

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- The younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit South Korea this week as part of Pyongyang's high-level delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the South's Unification Ministry said Wednesday.

    North Korea informed South Korea the same day that Kim Yo Jong, the first vice director of the ruling party's Propaganda and Agitation Department and considered one of the closest aides to her brother, will be included in the delegation led by the North's ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam, according to the ministry.

    South Korea's presidential office welcomed Kim Yo Jong's planned visit to the South, given her status as the top leader's sibling and also her "important role" in the Workers' Party.

    "It is viewed that the North Korean delegation shows the North's resolve to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and also celebrate the Winter Olympics," presidential spokesman Kim Eui Kyeom said in a statement.

    Two other delegates are Choe Hwi, the chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, the head of the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland, a state agency in charge of handling inter-Korean affairs.

    The delegation is scheduled to make a three-day visit to the South from Friday to attend the opening ceremony that day of the Winter Olympics, which will last until Feb. 25.

    The ministry said the delegation, consisting of members from the ruling Workers' Party, government and sports officials, is considered "meaningful as their trip is to celebrate the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics."

    It said Kim Yo Jong was apparently included because foreign leaders' families are customarily sent to deliver congratulations on the Olympics.

    Earlier Wednesday, a 280-member North Korean delegation, including a cheering squad and a taekwondo demonstration team, entered South Korea via a western land route, according to the ministry.

    The delegation, led by Sports Minister Kim Il Guk, consists of four officials from the National Olympic Committee, 229 cheerleaders, 26 taekwondo performers and 21 journalists.

    On Tuesday, a North Korean art troupe scheduled to stage concerts in South Korea in celebration of the Olympics arrived in the eastern port city of Gangneung by ferry.

    The 140-member Samjiyon art troupe, including an orchestra, is scheduled to perform there on Thursday and in Seoul on Sunday.

    In January, North Korea agreed with South Korea to send athletes and others to the Olympics. The two Koreas will march together under one flag in the opening ceremony and field a unified women's ice hockey team.

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