Kim influential sister to visit S. Korea

The only sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, will visit South Korea this week, the first immediate member of the North's ruling family ever to set foot in the South, officials said on Wednesday.

By Choe Sang-Hun in Seoul
  • Published 8.02.18
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Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Pyongyang. (Reuters)

Seoul: The only sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, will visit South Korea this week, the first immediate member of the North's ruling family ever to set foot in the South, officials said on Wednesday.

Kim Yo-jong, Kim's younger sister and a key player in his secretive regime, will arrive in South Korea on Friday as part of North Korea's 22-member government delegation that will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics later that day. The North Korean delegation's three-day itinerary includes a meeting with President Moon Jae-in of the South.

Her bloodline gives her an unmatched status among North Korean elites. She is also considered Kim's closest relative. The South Korean news media call her "Kim Jong-un's Ivanka", likening her influence with her brother to that of Ivanka Trump's on her father, President Trump. The North's state news media often shows top-ranking officials listening reverentially when Kim Yo-jong speaks.

And she will be coming to a spectacle that is also drawing Vice-President Mike Pence, who will be at the opening ceremony on Friday, and Ivanka Trump, who is expected at the closing ceremony. The gathering is prompting speculation about some previously unthinkable get-togethers.

The North's delegation is officially led by Kim Yong-nam, the 90-year-old president of the Presidium of the North's Parliament and the country's nominal head of state. But being a sister of Kim Jong-un, North Korea's "monolithic" leader, Kim Yo-jong will become the focus of intense attention.

It remains unclear whether Kim Yo-jong or any other North Korean official will be carrying any message to Moon from Kim. The South Korean President has been eager to use the North's Olympic participation as a way to ease tensions spurred by its nuclear and missile tests in the past year.

Kim Yo-jong, 30, has emerged as an important player in her brother's government since Kim replaced their father, Kim Jong-il, as supreme leader in 2011. She is believed to be a deputy director of the ruling Workers' Party's Department of Propaganda and Agitation, a key post in the propaganda-heavy totalitarian state.

She is the only relative of her brother's who appears in North Korea's news media, accompanying her brother in state ceremonies.

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE