Friday, Oct 19, 2018 | Last Update : 12:11 AM IST

Kim sister begins historic South Korea visit

AP
Published : Feb 10, 2018, 3:17 am IST
Updated : Feb 10, 2018, 3:18 am IST

For security reasons, few details of Ms Kim’s three-day itinerary have been made public.

Kim Yo-jong, top right, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sits alongside Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of North Korean Parliament, and behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as she watches the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Friday. (Photo: AFP)
 Kim Yo-jong, top right, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sits alongside Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of North Korean Parliament, and behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as she watches the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Friday. (Photo: AFP)

PYEONGCHANG: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister arrived in South Korea on Friday to begin an unprecedented three-day visit in which she would attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and then sit down with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a luncheon at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

Kim Yo-jong, who is probably Kim’s closest confidant and is a senior cadre in North Korea’s ruling party, is the first member of the Kim dynasty to visit South Korea, though her grandfather, Kim Il Sung, traveled to areas occupied by his troops south of what is now the Demilitarised Zone during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The trip has the potential to become something of a coming out party - certainly for Kim Yo- jong, but also for her deeply isolated country.

Kim Jong-un hasn’t set foot outside North Korea or met a single head of state since he assumed power upon the death of their father, Kim Jong-il, in late 2011. His single-minded pursuit of a nuclear arsenal to counter what he sees as the threat of invasion by the United States has ratcheted up tensions not only with his rivals but also with primary trading partner China and with Russia, once a key benefactor.

Kim Yo-jong’s arrival was broadcast live on South Korean television. Looking confident and relaxed, she had a brief meeting with South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, before being whisked away in a black limousine and catching the high-speed train to Pyeongchang.

At the age of 30, Kim Yo- jong is probably the most powerful woman in North Korea.

She has been rapidly rising within the North’s power structure and is believed to be in charge of shaping her brother’s public persona. But she has generally remained safely cloaked in her brother’s shadow. This is her first high-profile international appearance at center stage, though she is technically just a member of a delegation headed by the North’s senior statesman, 90-year-old Kim Yong-nam.

Just before the opening ceremony, Kim Yong-nam, the highest-ranking North Korean official to travel to the South, attended a dinner for visiting foreign dignitaries hosted by Mr Moon. US vice-president Mike Pence was at the dinner and was also scheduled to attend the opening ceremony. Mr Pence did not meet with the North Korean delegates, spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said.

For security reasons, few details of Ms Kim’s three-day itinerary have been made public.

After arriving on Kim Jong-un’s personal jet at the South’s ultramodern Incheon International Airport — the North’s flagship airline is subject to sanctions — she traveled to Pyeongchang to attend the Games’ opening ceremony, where the North and South Korean athletes will march together behind a blue-and-white “unification” flag.    

Tags: kim jong-un, cho myoung-gyon