SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has offered to send leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister to a South Korean event planned for early next year, an organizer said on Thursday, which would be the first time an immediate member of the ruling family would visit the South.
Kim Yo Jong is included in the North’s list of ruling party officials to participate in a joint food festival planned by a private South Korean group of businesses with ties in the North, an official with the group said.
Kim, who is believed to be 27, was identified by the North’s state media last week as a senior official of the Workers’ Party, the only other member of the ruling Kim family known to have an official role in the government.
“A list of participants was sent to us, and (Kim Yo Jong) is in there,” Dongbang Young-man told Reuters.
The group is in discussions with the South Korean government over the event planned for Seoul, he said.
The South’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, did not immediately have comment when asked about the event. Most private exchange between the rivals was halted after a torpedo attack against a South Korean navy ship in 2010, which Seoul has blamed on Pyongyang.
If it happens, Kim Yo Jong’s visit would mark the first visit by an immediate member of the Kim family in more than six decades of division.
Two South Korean presidents have traveled to the North for summit meetings with the current leader’s father, Kim Jong Il - in 2000 and 2007 - but the North has not reciprocated the visits.
Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of Kim Jong Un who was married to the daughter of state founder Kim Il Sung, was among a group of North Korean officials who visited the South in 2002 and was the only other member of the leading family to have been in the South. Jang was purged and executed in December last year.
A delegation of high-level North Korean officials made a surprise visit in October to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games hosted by the South, promising to reopen dialogue that has been halted. However, the two sides have failed to hold follow-up talks as tension persist between the rivals.
Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Tony Munroe and Michael Perry