February 7, 2018 / 8:44 PM / 17 days ago

South Korea asks U.N. to allow sanctioned North Korea official to attend Olympics

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - South Korea asked the United Nations on Wednesday for an exemption to allow a sanctioned North Korean official to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

Pyongyang told Seoul that Choe Hwi, chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, would travel to Pyeongchang as part of its delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said on Wednesday.

South Korea asked the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee for an exemption to allow Choe to travel. The committee operates by consensus. If no objections are raised by any of the 15 members by Thursday afternoon, then the request will be approved.

While Choe is the only member of the North Korean delegation blacklisted by the Security Council, South Korea asked the sanctions committee for broad approval to host the entire high-level delegation from Pyongyang between Feb. 9 and 11, according to the request seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

South Korea’s mission to the United Nations wrote in the request that the visit “will serve as a timely opportunity to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula and beyond by promoting an environment conducive to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution concerning the situation on the Peninsula.”

The U.N. Security Council imposed a travel ban and asset freeze Choe on June 2 last year when he was vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Department, which controls ideological messaging through the media, arts and culture. Kim Yo Jong now holds that position.

Kim Yo Jong was blacklisted last year by the U.S. Treasury Department over human rights abuses and censorship.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment on the South Korean U.N. request.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish

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