WE ARE watching for hints of improved relations between the two Koreas, instead of our tallying the medals, in the Winter Olympics that opened Friday in the resort city of PyeongChang where North and South Korea are fielding a joint ice hockey team under a common flag.
Catching our eye in the sidelines is Kim Yo Jong, younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. She arrived Friday with a delegation and yesterday had lunch with other dignitaries hosted by South Korea President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House in Seoul.
At the Olympics’ opening rites the day before, Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, sat at the stadium’s VIP box with other guests, including US Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who were about a meter away.
We think Pence should have made an effort to at least acknowledge the North Koreans – sport lang, as Pinoys would say – even if US President Donald Trump in the White House would catch him feigning friendliness.
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un appears unmoved in his dash to put together nuclear-armed ballistic missiles capable of hitting the heart of America, but is showing signs he could be pressured to explore other options as a way out of the nuclear impasse.
If White House propaganda has factual basis, the concerted pressure of several nations, including China, appears to be working. Without giving up its amassed nuclear technology, a hurting Pyongyang may grudgingly agree to channel its capability to non-military uses.
What if a bullying Trump is aiming to humiliate Kim with a total surrender of his nuclear arsenal? The bullheadedness of some world leaders sometimes raises the question why, instead of dragging their nations to war, they do not settle their differences in a hand-to-hand combat by themselves.
It would be fun watching a hair-pulling event, for instance, between North Korea’s Kim, he of the weirdo hairdo, and the US’ Trump whose flying hair is not always successful in hiding a balding pate.
At the Blue House luncheon, state TV videos showed a smiling Moon shaking hands with the North Koreans, who also included Choe Hwi, chair of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chair of the North’s agency dealing with inter-Korean affairs.
Moon should be left to his own devices in restoring, possibly with the help of the Olympics and such people-to-people contacts, initial lower-level relations with North Korea. Outsiders, including the US, may want to give the Koreans a chance to reconnect with each other by themselves.
Kim Yo Jong, btw, is the first member of the Kim dynasty – which traces its bloodline to the sacred Mount Paektu, a centerpiece of the North’s idolatrous propaganda — to cross the 38th parallel that divided the peninsula after the 1950-53 Korean War.
No member of her family has ever before visited the Blue House, which is near where her grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, sent commandos in 1968 to assassinate former South Korean strongman Park Chung-hee. The killer squad failed.
Reuters reported that Kim Yo Jung smiled faintly as Moon shook her hand upon entering the room. The host asked the delegation solicitously: “I appreciate you stayed late out in the cold, are you all well?”
We join people of goodwill praying that the wintry winds at the Olympics are but a harbinger of the warm glow of peace and reconciliation that could be creeping on the Korean peninsula.
• Canada firm to fix MRT signal glitches
RATHER than get third parties with no track record or consortiums whose only asset is influence, the Department of Transportation went straight this week to the firm that designed, built and originally serviced the signaling system of the MRT-3.
The idea is to cut drastically the technical troubles that have reduced to just seven the trains serving the MetroRail Transit Line-3 running on EDSA between North Ave., Quezon City, and Taft Ave., Pasay City. Most of its service disruptions have been traced to erratic signaling.
The signaling system determines and keeps the safe distances between trains and controls their speed. Its malfunctioning results in accidents, stoppages, fewer trains running and their being held to lower speeds so as not to compromise passenger safety.
The transportation department signed Friday with Canadian company Bombardier Transportation a memorandum of understanding for the emergency procurement of OEM signaling spare parts and maintenance for the MRT-3.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade signed the MOU with officials of Bombardier Transportation together with Canadian Ambassador John Holmes. Present were Undersecretary for Railways TJ Batan and Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Procurement Reinier Paul Yebra.
Bombardier was the company that designed, supplied, commissioned, and maintained the signaling system for its first 12 years of operations. It is the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and proprietary rights owner of the Cityflo 250 Light Rail and Metro Signaling Solution, the MRT-3’s signaling system.
The DoTr will procure OEM parts and sign a two-year signaling maintenance contract with Bombardier under the direct contracting and emergency procurement rules prescribed by RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act).
Tugade said that procurement mode was resorted to because Bombardier is the proprietary source of MRT-3’s Cityflo 250 signaling system. He cited the immediate need to restore MRT-3’s reliability and availability.
He deplored the failure of the system’s previous maintenance service providers to keep a stock of OEM signaling spare parts, their installing non-original replacement parts, and their inability to maintain and upgrade the MRT-3’s signaling system.
Tugade said: “For years, among the top three most frequent causes of breakdowns are signaling-related issues. Non-OEM spare parts were used just to save on costs and increase profit at the expense of MRT-3’s safety and reliability.
“This time, we want to be sure that we get the right spare parts and that we maintain the system right. Bombardier‘s track record is exceptional. They are the original manufacturer of MRT-3’s signaling system, and we are directly dealing with it, not a joint venture, not a consortium, not any middleman.”