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North Korea's No. 2 Makes Surprise Visit To The South

At the last minute, North Korea sent a high-ranking delegation to the South. The surprise visit comes amid rumors of Kim Jong Un's health.

North Korea's No. 2 Makes Surprise Visit To The South
Getty Images / Chung Sung-Jun

North Korea has again caught the world of guard —at the last minute, sending a high-ranking delegation to the South.

The three North Korean officials arrived in Incheon Friday to watch the closing of the Asian Games and meet with their South Korean counterparts.

The delegation was led by Hwang Pyong So. He’s widely considered the regime’s No. 2 in charge.

His rare visit makes him the highest-ranking official from the North to visit since South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office last year. 

You know, the woman the North's government mouthpiece has in the past condemned as a “whore.”

Harsh rhetoric like that, along with 100 or so missile launched from the North in the past year, have contributed to the already strained ties between the two neighbors. (Video via Arirang

But many analysts say Friday’s surprise visit indicates the North’s willingness to improve ties on the Korean peninsula. The timing, however, is interesting. 

It comes amid speculation over the health of North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, who hasn’t been seen in public in over a month. Officially, Pyongyang says he’s “suffering from discomfort.” (Video via ODN

North Korea-watchers have speculated there’s more to his absence. Among the theories — North Korea is the midst of a power struggle, or even a coup with Kim Jong Un having lost all power.

Sending three members of his inner circle to the South could suggest just the opposite. The New York Times quotes one North Korea observer as saying: “By sending a high-level delegation of powerful officials to the South, Kim Jong-un is demonstrating that although he is not well, he has no problem making a sensitive political decision.”

According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, the North has agreed to resume the high-level talks it suspended in February. Those talks are expected to start later this month.

This video includes images from Getty Images.