North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s influential younger sister is heading to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, ministry officials in Seoul revealed Wednesday.
Kim Yo Jong, a rising figure among the North Korean leadership, will be the first member of the North Korean ruling family to visit South Korea since the Korean War, and much speculation surrounds her visit.
President Donald Trump is reportedly sending his daughter Ivanka to the Games, so Kim Jong Un may be sending his younger sister to signal that he and the American president are equals, Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification suggested to the Associated Press.
As one of Kim Jong Un’s closest advisers, his sister may bring a message from her brother, the BBC wrote. Kim Yo Jong could also be a tool to highlight North Korea’s sincerity concerning inter-Korean engagement, as she is believed to play an important role in shaping state policies, making her the best dialogue partner short of the North Korean leader himself. Anyone who interacts with her can rest assured that the message will be relayed to her brother.
The South Korean government led by liberal President Moon Jae-in is enthusiastic about Kim’s visit to the South, while other observers question North Korea’s intentions, arguing that the North has less than peaceful aspirations.
Some assess that the visit is part of Kim Jong Un’s broader efforts to groom his younger sister for greater power. She received a major promotion to the powerful Political Bureau last year.
Much like her brother, Kim Yo Jong was not very well known until just a few years before her brother took power after the death of their father. She became an influential figure after she became the deputy director of the ruling party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, where she helped to craft the way the North Korean people perceived her older brother.
Kim Yo Jong is suspected to have briefly taken command of the state during a period of time when Kim Jong Un is believed to have been out of commission with gout or diabetes, according to CNN.
Kim Jong Un’s little sister may encounter certain difficulties traveling to South Korea, as she is blacklisted by the U.S. government for various human rights violations. The South has already had to request permission to bypass sanctions to permit certain types of Olympic cooperation.
Kim Yo Jong will attend the Olympics with a delegation of several hundred people, including senior government officials, cheerleaders, cultural performers, coaches, and athletes.
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