Kim Jong Un’s sister will be joining North Korea’s Winter Olympics delegation this week, CNN reported. According to North Korean officials, she will be the first immediate member of the North’s ruling family ever to set foot in the South.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry released a statement saying that Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister and a key player in his secretive regime, will be joining North Korea’s high-level delegation to the South on Friday. As part of North Korea’s 22-member government delegation, Kim Yo Jong will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics scheduled for later that day.
According to the New York Times, Kim Jong Un’s sister and the rest of the North Korean delegation will spend three days in South Korea, during which time they will attend a high profile meeting with South Korea’s President, Moon Jae In.
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By including Kim Jong Un’s sister in the Winter Olympics delegation, North Korea set out to irritate the United States, which has sent its own delegation to the event led by Vice President Mike Pence.
On a refueling stop on his way to Asia, Pence said the aim of his trip was to show American “resolve” in rallying the international community against the Kim regime.
“We’re traveling to the Olympics to make sure that North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime,” Pence said according to CNN.
During a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Pence echoed his earlier statement and continued to push the Trump administration’s tough rhetoric in the quest to curb North Korea’s nuclear threat.
“I’m announcing that the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever, and we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all,” Pence said.
“We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region,” the Vice President added.
However, despite the strong attitude the United States has taken, South Korea welcomed the announcement of Kim Yo Jong’s visit to the Olympic games, saying it was “significant” that Kim Jong Un’s sister will be joining the delegation.
“We believe that the North’s announcement of the delegation shows its willingness to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula along with a message of celebration for the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games,” it said in a statement. “It is significant that the delegation also includes Kim Yo Jong, who is Chairman Kim Jong Un’s sister and holds an important position in the Workers’ Party of Korea.”
Despite the fact that the North Korean Winter Olympic delegation will officially be led by Kim Yong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s sister will most likely be the focus of intense attention during the North Korean visit. The 90-year-old Kim Yong Nam is the oldest member of the North Korean leadership, currently serves as the president of the Presidium of North Korean Parliament, and has led the North Korean delegation to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Like most members of the Kim family, very little is known about Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong. Considered to be the key player in Kim Jong Un’s secretive regime, her bloodline gives her an unmatched status among North Korean elites. According to NK Leadership Watch, she is a close aide of her brother’s “and since his accession manages his public events, itineraries, and logistical needs, among other tasks.”
According to CNN, Kim Jong Un’s sister was born September 26, 1987, in Switzerland, and is believed to have attended Kim Il Sung University and a western European school for her higher education. Recent BBC reports suggest that she is married to the son of Choe Ryong Hae, the former Vice Chairman of the North Korean Workers’ Party.
Kim Jong Un’s sister is believed to be the deputy director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Department of Propaganda and Agitation, a key post in the propaganda-heavy totalitarian state. According to the New York Times, Kim Yo Jong became the youngest member of the Politburo, the main decision-making body of the party. As Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong frequently accompanies other North Korean senior officials in state ceremonies or in“guidance tours” of factories and farms.
According to outside officials and analysts, Kim Jong Un’s sister influential position isn’t anything new in the secretive regime. The New York Times reported that Kim Yo Jong’s father, Kim Jong Il, also allowed his own sister, Kim Kyong Hui, to hold prominent jobs in the government until his death in 2011. Kim Kyong Hui, however, disappeared from the public eye in 2013 when her husband was executed by Kim Jong-un on charges of plotting a coup.
“Although Kim Yong Nam is the official head of the delegation, it will be Kim Yo Jong who will decide its activities,” Cheong Seong Chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, South Korea, told the New York Times. “By including his sister in the delegation, Kim Jong Un may want to show his interest in improving ties with South Korea.”