Anchor: A group of high-ranking North Korean officials are likely to visit South Korea next week to attend an academic gathering. The move is seen as an attempt by North Korea to further improve its ties with the South amid efforts to resume U.S.-North Korea negotiations. 
Our Bae Joo-yon has more. 

Report: North Korea requested South Korea’s Unification Ministry to approve a visit by seven officials to an international academic conference that will open in Gyeonggi Province next Wednesday. 

In the list sent by the North, Ri Jong-hyeok is named as the chief delegate. Ri is the vice chairman of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee and a member of the Supreme People’s Assembly. 

Ri met with South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang in Geneva last month and discussed holding an inter-Korean parliamentary meeting. He also serves as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s special envoy on arranging Pope Francis’ visit to Pyongyang. 

Another figure on the list is Kim Song-hye, the head of the Secretarial  Bureau of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. She is considered to be a key aide to both Kim Jong-un and his sister Kim Yo-jong. 

Experts believe that Kim Song-hye was included on the list in order to prepare for a visit to Seoul by the North Korean leader within this year. 

Deputy Prime Minister Ri Ryong-nam was also on the list. He’s considered to be the central figure in the North’s efforts to attract foreign capital and overseas cooperation projects.

By sending Ri to a private-level event that has little to do with economic issues, the North apparently is aiming to hold contact with South Korea’s economy- or business sector-related officials in a bid to actively launch inter-Korean economic cooperation efforts after international sanctions on the North are lifted. 

South Korea’s Unification Ministry is expected to unveil later this week its decision on the North’s request for the team’s visit. 
Bae Joo-yon, KBS World Radio News.

[Photo : YONHAP News]