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Kim Jong Un’s Sister to Attend South Korea Olympics Opener

With her visit, Kim Yo Jong will be the first member of the Kim family to cross the border to South Korea.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s 28-year-old sister will make her debut on the world stage when she visits South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on 9 February, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

Pyongyang told Seoul that Kim Yo Jong would accompany Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, along with Choe Hwi, chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, who led inter-Korean talks last month, according to the ministry.

Kim Yo Jong, born on the sacred Mount Paektu, which is a centrepiece of the North’s idolisation and propaganda campaign, would be the first member of the Kim family to cross the border to the South.

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Her inclusion in the delegation is “meaningful” as she is not only the sister of the country’s leader but also has a significant position as a senior official of the ruling Workers’ Party, the South’s presidential Blue House said.

It shows the North’s resolve to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula.
Kim Eui-kyeom, Blue House spokesman

“She could deliver a message from Kim Jong Un in a way that conveys personal seriousness and commitment that even Kim Yong Nam couldn’t,” Andray Abrahamian, a research fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS in Hawaii, also said on the subject.

Having previously only occasionally appeared in the background, the young heiress has moved to the front and center of media photographs more recently, assisting her brother at numerous state events.

In October, Kim Yo Jong was promoted to the party’s politburo, an opaque, all-powerful decision-making body that decides top state affairs.

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But the trip could become a source of contention between Seoul and Washington, as she was blacklisted last year by the US Treasury Department over human rights abuses and censorship, while Choe faces a travel ban under UN Security Council sanctions.

In 2016, South Korea’s former spy chief said Kim Yo Jong was seen “abusing power”, punishing propaganda department executives for “minor mistakes”.

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One of the positives of her visit is that she is someone able to deliver a direct message on behalf of Kim Jong Un.
Shin Beom-chul, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul

“What is problematic is that she’s coming with Choe Hwi. This raises worries that North Korea likely intends to use this Olympics as a propaganda tool, rather than a possible opening to meaningful dialogue with South Korea,” he added.

The opening ceremony will also be attended by US Vice President Mike Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other world leaders.

(This article has been published in an arrangement with Reuters.)

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Topics:  US   South Korea   North Korea 

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