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South Korean President to Skip Russia Victory Day Ceremony

FILE - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Dec. 12, 2014.
FILE - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Dec. 12, 2014.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will not attend next month's Russia’s Victory Day ceremony, which is expected to include North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Both Park and Kim were invited to the May 9 event in Moscow marking the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

The Kremlin has said Kim will attend the ceremony, but Pyongyang has not commented on a potential visit for Kim, who has not traveled abroad or met a head of state since he took power in late 2011.

In a statement released over the weekend, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Seoul will send a presidential aide to the event.

Park's absence rules out the possibility of a first meeting between leaders of two Koreas since 2007. Moscow has volunteered to broker a dialogue between the two sides, calling on both leaders to attend.

Analysts in Seoul told VOA that Park might have concluded the Moscow event may not be the appropriate venue for the potential meeting with Kim.

“North Korea and Russia are both facing sanctions by the international community. It would be difficult for Seoul to win support from its allies for its efforts in inter-Korean relations by seeking a breakthrough from the event,” said Goh Yoo-hwan, a professor at South Korea’s Dongguk University.

Nam Gwang-gyu, a professor at Korea University, said Pyongyang is not likely to be receptive to efforts to improve ties with Seoul in the near future. He says the communist country is relatively content with the current political environment.

“I expect the status quo [in terms of North-South relations] to continue for a while as an external factor facilitating inter-Korean relations is largely absent. Given Pyongyang’s reluctance to change, the current situation is likely to remain unchanged,” Nam said.

On Monday, Russian media said Pyongyang has sent a delegation of senior officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Ro Tu Chol, to Moscow.

Some analysts in Seoul speculated the visit could be part of preparations for Kim’s visit to Moscow.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.