Opposition parties protest Kim Yong-chol’s visit

2018-02-23 20:03

Opposition parties continued Friday to vehemently protest the planned visit by a North Korean hard-liner suspected of orchestrating the 2010 torpedo attack on a South Korean corvette that killed 46 sailors.

Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, is scheduled to lead an eight-member delegation to the South from Sunday through Tuesday to attend the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. 

Lawmakers of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party protest the government`s decision to recieve Kim Yong-chol as part of the North Korean delegation to the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics on Friday. Yonhap

The former chief of the North’s reconnaissance bureau has also been accused of masterminding the shelling of the island Yeonpyeongdo in 2010, and planting of land mines across the inter-Korean border.

About 70 lawmakers of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party rallied in front of the presidential office Friday morning, calling on President Moon Jae-in to withdraw the decision to accept Kim’s visit.

Calling Kim “a heinous villain” that “should be beaten to death,” Liberty Korea Party floor leader Rep. Kim Sung-tae said Kim should be immediately arrested if he sets foot in the South.

“If President Moon insists on accepting Kim Yong-chol, he should do so only after announcing to the people that North Korea promised to scrap its nuclear weapons,” Rep. Kim said.

Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hong Joon-pyo accused the Moon administration of “blindly following” the North‘s maneuvers to incite conflict within the South and drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.

Kim Yong-chol is under financial sanctions by South Korea and the US for his involvement in the North’s weapons programs.

The South’s Ministry of Unification said that it hasn’t been confirmed whether Kim orchestrated the sinking of the Cheonan, and that it was difficult to pinpoint individuals responsible for the North’s attacks.

Liberty Korea Party spokesman Chang Je-won said Moon would be committing an act of treason if he welcomes Kim into the presidential office.

The minor opposition Bareun Mirae Party also urged the government to scrap the decision to allow Kim’s visit.

“It would be an insult to the Republic of Korea, our armed forces and our people” for Moon to meet and talk with “the main culprit of the Cheonan’s sinking,” Rep. Yoo Seong-min, co-leader of the party, said during a supreme council meeting on Friday.

The other co-leader Rep. Park Joo-sun also said the government should demand the North to reconsider sending Kim to the South.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea accused the Liberty Korea Party of using Kim’s visit as an excuse to spoil the festive Olympic mood and disrupt parliamentary sessions.

The ruling party’s leader Choo Mi-ae called on the Liberty Korea Party to stop its political offensive, pointing to the fact that Kim Yong-chol represented the North in the inter-Korean military talks in October 2014 under the Park Geun-hye administration.

At the time, the media raised suspicions that Kim was behind the Cheonan’s sinking, but the then ruling Saenuri party, which is now the Liberty Korea Party, said the Koreas should work on dialogue, Choo said.

The minor opposition Party for Democracy and Peace leader Cho Bae-sook also urged the Liberty Korea Party to stop opposing solely for the sake of opposition, alluding to the military talks in 2014.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)