Winter Olympics 2018: Kim Jong Un's sister shakes hands with South's President
Kim Hong-Ji (Pool/AFP)
The sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, who is on a historic visit to the South for the Winter Olympics, shook hands with Seoul's President Moon Jae-in at the opening ceremony Friday.
Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the North's ruling dynasty to visit the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953, met Moon when he arrived for the opening ceremony in a pentagonal arena in Pyeongchang.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam also met and shook hands Friday ahead of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
Kim Yong Nam, who is officially leading Pyongyang's diplomatic delegation to the Games, met Moon at a leaders' reception ahead of the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.
Moon and his wife received their guests one by one and the two men smiled as they shook hands in a relaxed manner.
An aircraft carrying the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the country's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam landed in the South earlier on Friday, television pictures showed, in a historic first.
On board were Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the North's ruling dynasty to visit the South since the Korean War ended with a ceasefire in 1953, and Kim Yong Nam, the leader of its delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South.
Their visit is the diplomatic high point of an Olympics-driven rapprochement between the two sides of the divided peninsula, which remain technically at war.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pushed the Games as a "peace Olympics" that will open a door for dialogue to alleviate military tensions on the peninsula and seek to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.
The North Korean delegation was due to travel on to Pyeongchang for the Olympics opening ceremony later Friday, which will be attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The United States government is represented by the hawkish Vice-President Mike Pence, who will be accompanied by Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier who died aged 22 after being detained in North Korea for a petty offense last year.
- Two Koreas, extreme cold -
The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will open in sub-zero temperatures on Friday, with North and South Korea marching together at a gala ceremony to launch what could be the coldest Games on record.
Russia, banned from the Games over a state-sponsored doping conspiracy, will nevertheless be represented by one of the biggest delegations, although Russian athletes will march behind a neutral flag.
Shivering athletes are bracing for one of the coldest Winter Olympics yet, with temperatures plunging well below zero, while a debilitating norovirus bug has already infected more than 100 people working at the Games.
Dubbed the "Peace Olympics" by the South Korean government, the Games have ushered in an apparent thaw in ties with the nuclear-armed North, after months of fiery rhetoric and weapons tests.
Underlining the complexities of the Korean peninsula, just a day before the ceremony the North Koreans issued a timely reminder that peace diplomacy is backed by military might.
On Thursday, fireworks lit up the sky and goose-stepping soldiers and ballistic missiles paraded through the North Korea capital to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the country's armed forces.
Twenty-two North Korean athletes are taking part, but only pairs skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik have a real shot at a medal.
North Korea's glamorous cheerleaders are expected to make a bigger impact than their athletes. More than 200 sharply dressed young women, dubbed the "Army of Beauties", will be cheering on their competitors from the stands. Some are also expected to attend the opening ceremony.
- 'Ice Prince' and Chloe Kim -
Expectations are sky-high for an array of stars at Pyeongchang, including American skiers Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn, while the drama in figure skating centres on whether Japan's "Ice Prince" Yuzuru Hanyu can recover from injury to retain his crown.
Potential winners also include French flag-bearer Martin Fourcade in biathlon, hoping to add to his two gold medals earned in Sochi in 2014. Alpine giant slalom great Marcel Hirscher of Austria is among the gold medal hunters, alongside women's downhill legend Lindsey Vonn of the United States.
The sensational 15-year-old Alina Zagitova of Russia will take the spotlight in women's figure skating, where a showdown is expected with her fellow Russian teen, Evgenia Medvedeva.
Another teenage breakout star could be Chloe Kim, 17, the American whose parents are Korean and who is tipped for gold in snowboard as well as adulation by the host nation.
For the South Koreans, major home hopes rest of the slender shoulder of yet another teenage girl. In short track speedskating, 19-year-old Choi Min-jeong is among the favorites for a gold-medal slam of all four races.
The International Olympic Committee last year issued a blanket ban on Russian athletes taking part in the Olympics following the doping scandal, but also allowed more than 160 "clean" competitors to compete under a neutral flag.
However, legal battles launched by excluded athletes have tarnished the build-up to the Games. Only hours before the opening ceremony, the Court of Arbitration for Sport threw out a bid by 47 more Russians to compete at Pyeongchang.
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