Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter and senior adviser to the White House, will visit South Korea to attend the PyeongChang Winter Olympics' closing ceremony. South Korean President Moon Jae-in will have a dinner with her at Sangchunjae of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, providing her with a high level of courtesy. Against this backdrop, North Korea said Thursday that its delegation to the South for the closing ceremony would include Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the head of the United Front Department. The former military spy chief, who is believed to have orchestrated the sinking of Cheonan warship, is the subject of sanctions by both South Korea and the United States.
North Korea’s announcement to send a delegation came right after the White House said it would send Ivanka to South Korea. Obviously, the North’ intention is to show that it will not lose in the psychological warfare against the United States. It is trying to steal the world’s attention from Ivanka using its appeasement offensive to South Korea. Kim Yong Chol is the chief of the state agency handling inter-Korean affairs. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Feb 12 ordered Kim Yong Chol to promote reconciliation between the two Koreas. With this unexpected proposal, the North Korean leader is likely to accelerate his strategy of sidelining the United States while holding talks with South Korea.
Another intention behind the North’s move is to test the South Korean government. Sending the chief of the state agency handling inter-Korean affairs to the South is to fuel conflict within our society and sound the Moon administration out about its will to improve inter-Korean relations. Furthermore, it is attempting to damage cooperation between the United States and South Korea on imposing sanctions against North Korea and drive a wedge between the ROK-US alliances. To be sure, the Moon administration is in a difficult position to refuse Kim’s dispatch. But it was a hasty and rash decision to announce that President Moon would meet with Kim Yong Chol even before the United States decides to make an exception this time and allow Kim to visit South Korea.
There is little chance that there will be any personal contact between Ivanka and Kim Yong Chol at the closing ceremony, which is slated for Sunday. The South Korean government does not have much leeway to arrange a meeting between Ivanka and Kim as it did with Mike Pence and Kim Yo Jong. Ivanka reportedly will separate politics from diplomacy and focus only on sports diplomacy this time. In addition, the White House said that the scheduled meeting with North Korean women defectors has been canceled in South Korea. But considering the influence Ivanka has, her visit can be an important chance for the South Korean government.
Ivanka is not just a president’s daughter. She was a secret weapon during the presidential campaign, being her father’s eyes and ears. She is a political heavyweight, who has an official position in the White House. This is why the South Korean government should take this opportunity to increase President Trump’s understanding about Seoul’s North Korea policies.
Ivanka’s every move during her three-day visit to South Korea will be a symbol that shows a strong alliance between the United States and South Korea. The recent improving relations between the two Koreas should not damage ROK-US alliance. In order to produce the best diplomatic result at the closing ceremony, the Moon administration should closely cooperate with the Trump administration on North Korean issues and try to change the attitude of Kim Jong Un.