Thu, Feb 08, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Kim’s sister to visit South Korea in an historic first

FIGUREHEAD:Technically, the most senior official to visit the South is to be the head of the ‘legislature,’ but Kim Yo-jong is likely being groomed for leadership


The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is to visit South Korea this week for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Seoul said yesterday — the first member of its ruling family ever to do so.

Kim Yo-jong, who is a senior member of the ruling Workers’ Party, is to be part of a high-level delegation due to arrive tomorrow led by the North’s ceremonial head of state, the North Korean Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea said.

“It is highly significant that a member of the Kim family is coming to the South for the first time in history,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

She is likely to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in and give him a personal letter from her brother, expressing his hopes for a successful hosting of the Olympics and desire to improve inter-Korean ties, he added.

“This will mark Kim Yo-jong’s debut on the international stage,” Yang said. “She is being groomed as one of the North’s most powerful figures by her brother.”

Kim Yo-jong, believed to be aged about 30, was in October last year promoted to be an alternate member of the party’s powerful politburo, the decisionmaking body presided over by her brother.

She has frequently been seen accompanying her brother on his “field guidance trips” and other events and is known to have been involved in the party’s propaganda operations.

The North has always kept its leadership within the family — Kim Jong-un is the third generation of the dynasty to lead the country, after his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung, the North’s founder.

Kim Jong-il fathered Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong with his third partner, former dancer Ko Yong-hui.

However, other family members have not fared so well — Kim Jong-un’s uncle was executed for treason two years after the younger man came to power, and a half-brother was assassinated in a Malaysian airport last year.

The delegation’s three-day trip is to be the diplomatic high point of the rapprochement between the two Koreas triggered by the Pyeongchang Olympics in the South, which have their opening ceremony tomorrow — although analysts say that their newly warmed relations might not last long.

Officially, the delegation is to be headed by Kim Yong-nam, who leads the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the North’s rubber-stamp parliament.

He is regarded as the ceremonial head of state and is to technically be the most senior official from the North ever to travel to the South.

However, he is largely considered a figurehead whose public diplomatic role leaves it unclear how much political power he really has.

He previously led the North’s delegations to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, but does not hold the title of national president — but neither does Kim Jong-un.

It is retained by Kim Il-sung, who remains Eternal President of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, despite dying in 1994.

Also in the delegation is to be Ri Son-gwon, who as head of the reunification committee is responsible for inter-Korean affairs.

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