North Korea may send delegation to Davos: Yonhap

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un giving his New Year's address for 2016 in Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un giving his New Year's address for 2016 in Pyongyang.PHOTO: REUTERS/KYODO

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea may send a delegation to the World Economic Forum meeting in Switzerland for the first time in 18 years, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported on Monday (Jan 4), a sign that it sees international engagement as a way to bolster its economy.

Yonhap cited unidentified sources as saying North Korea was in talks with organisers to send a delegation to the annual event in the town of Davos, which attracts heavyweights from the worlds of business and politics.

A World Economic Forum spokeswoman declined to give details on attendees ahead of the Jan 13 release of a list of participants list. The conference takes place on Jan 20-23.

Impoverished, isolated North Korea is under United Nations sanctions for its nuclear and missile programmes, and struggles to attract investment. It last sent a delegation to the forum in 1998, Yonhap said.

Yonhap said the North Korean delegation would be led by Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, who spent two decades in Switzerland as ambassador and representative at the United Nations in Geneva.

Ri acted as surrogate father to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un when Kim was a student at a Swiss school.

Kim, believed to be in his early 30s, focused on development of the economy during a New Year's Day speech. "We should concentrate all our efforts on building an economic giant to bring about a fresh turn in developing the country's economy and improving the people's standard of living," he said.