N Korean 'First Sister' Returns Home After Sensational Appearance at Olympics

Pauline Gross
February 12, 2018

North Korea's delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, including its leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister, had "frank and candid" talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In, official media said Sunday.

"If there is a message to be conveyed to South Korea or the US, she is amply well positioned to convey it", he said. Hoping to discern what she's thinking, analysts pored over video of her eyes, and remarked on the tilt of her chin. Pence was "there to stand with Japan and South Korea", the official added when pressed on whether the vice president had intentionally dodged photo ops with Kim Yong Un's delegation.

It is rare for the North's official media to refer to the South's leader as president, usually describing them as chief executive or similar, and even more unusual for a picture of them to be shown. The two did not interact - although Pence, who arrived late, greeted the other dignitaries around him - prompting criticism of the American vice president.

Kim Yo Jong is the first member of the ruling Kim family bearing the bloodline of the sacred Mount Paektu, a centrepiece of the North's idolisation and propaganda campaign, to cross the border into the South since the 1950-53 Korean War. But rather than presenting herself as a stiff party operative, she has looked engaged and interested during multiple outings in Seoul, Pyeongchang and Gangneung.

Yo-jong and the officials, led by ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, departed on a North Korean plane from Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, around 10:24 p.m., after attending a North Korean art troupe's concert in Seoul earlier in the day. Before now, she had been seen mainly in photos, but often in the background, as her brother took center stage.

The North's invitation proposal has thrown President Moon into a delicate balancing act, between improving long-stalled cross-border ties while not hurting the critical alliance with the US, and the global unity in pressuring Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons.

Kim Yo Jong has rapidly risen up the ladder since her brother inherited power from their father, and is now among his closest confidantes.

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One telling incident came early.

Camera flashes; mobs of reporters: Through it all, Kim has maintained a placid smile - and despite Pence's stated intention to reinforce North Korea's isolation during his Olympic visit, the sister of the repressive regime's leader seems to have spent at least as much time with Moon as Pence did.

A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007.

The North Korean delegation was invited to lunch with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon at the five-star Walkerhill Hotel in eastern Seoul on Sunday, an official at the prime minister's office told Reuters.

Kim's sister, Kim Yo-jong, personally delivered the message as she was in Seoul for the Winter Olympics. The night before, Kim and other North Korean delegates attended the opening ceremony of the Olympics, watching a "unified" Korean team march under a banner showing an undivided Korean Peninsula.

South Korea accepted North Korea's demand to transport more than 100 art troupe members by sea, using the Mangyongbong-92 ferryboat as an exception to the maritime sanctions it imposed on the North, which is a controversial move amid concerns that the North is trying to use the Olympics to squirm out of worldwide sanctions. They've been called an element of the northern regime's "charm offensive" - a claim that's also been made against Kim Yo Jong during this visit.

Other reports by GizPress

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