N. Korean leader's younger sister steals show for Olympics in S. Korea

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-02-09 15:57 Updated : 2018-02-13 15:51
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL, Feb. 09 (Aju News) -- The younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stole the show Friday on the opening day of South Korea's first Winter Olympics, grabbing more attention than any other foreign guests including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

The arrival of Kim Yo-jong aboard a special North Korean plane believed to be used by her father for his trademark field guidance received full live coverage by TV stations.

With a bright smile on her face, Yo-jong walked gently behind North Korea's ceremonial head and delegation chief, Kim Yong-nam, when they were guided into the VIP room of Incheon International Airport west of Seoul, but TV cameras focused on her every movement.

Kim Yong-nam, 90, who serves as the nominal head of state responsible for summit diplomacy, would attend a reception dinner hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in that will also involve Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Han Zheng, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of China's Communist Party.

Yo-jong will attend a Saturday lunch meeting with Moon in Seoul before returning home the next day, sparking speculation that she may carry a message from his brother in Pyongyang.

North Korea has stepped up a flurry of sports diplomacy to grab the international spotlight since its leader made a surprise decision to send an Olympic team, cheerleaders and an art troupe.

The presence of high-level delegations from Washington and Pyongyang in the Olympic venue sparked speculation about possible contact between U.S. and North Korean officials. However, North Korea has ruled out any dialogue with the United States, throwing cold water on efforts by South Korea to set the stage for an unforced get-together.

Over Pyongyang's unexpected peace posture, Washington has been cynical or struck a somewhat hardline tone. The U.S. vice president has said Washington "will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery" of the Olympics.


[Yonhap News Photo]

Before attending an Olympic reception, Pence visited a memorial site for the victims of inter-Korean sea conflicts at a naval base on the southwestern port of Pyeongtaek before meeting with North Korean defectors and inspecting the wreckage of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

Relations were strained in 2010 when Seoul blamed a North Korean submarine for torpedoing the warship. The incident froze cross-border exchanges and trade. In November the same year, the North shelled a front-line island, killing four South Koreans and briefly triggering concerns of a full-scale conflict.

Yo-jong, the first vice director of the propaganda and agitation department of the North's Workers Party of Korea, will attend the Olympic opening ceremony, marking her debut on the international diplomatic stage.

The sister has assisted Kim Jong-un in the rear of her brother since he took power following the sudden death of his father in December 2011. In July 2015, she took control of the party's propaganda and agitation department in charge of developing her brother's cult of personality.

Washington has imposed sanctions on Yo-jong who was among seven North Korean officials blacklisted for their roles in the regime's human rights violations.