A rare visitorNorth Korea has decided to send its leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong to South Korea as a member of its high-level delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Her three-day, two-night trip from Friday carries great significance as it marks the first time for the so-called “Baekdu blood-line” to visit South Korea. Thanks to her close ties with Kim Jong-un, she is compared to Ivanka Trump, who plays a key role in the Trump administration.
Our unification ministry welcomed her inclusion in the delegation to help celebrate the opening of the Olympics on Friday. The ministry’s spokesperson said that North Korea seemed to have taken into account other countries’ practice of sending relatives of heads of state to the Games instead of their leaders. Among members of the delegation, Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, represents the government sector, while Choi Hui, chairman of the National Athletics Guidance Committee, represents the sports sector and Kim Yo-jong represents the Baekdu blood-line.
Kim was promoted at dazzling speed in the Communist hierarchy of North Korea. After becoming a Politburo member at a Workers’ Party Congress in October, she was promoted to first deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the party. Thanks to her experience of studying in Switzerland together with her brother in the late 1990s, she is believed to talk to the North Korean leader freely. That means she can deliver him various messages from other countries that she may receive during her stay.
Why did Kim Jong-un choose his sister? Security experts say that he may regard the Olympics as the last opportunity to break the ice with the United States, not to mention improving inter-Korean relations. The Trump administration’s North Korea policy is tougher than that of any past U.S. administration. With Trump weighing a strike on the North, Kim cannot avoid a war on the peninsula if he fails to find a breakthrough in the deadlock.
Some security analysts link the North’s refusal to accept foreign journalists’ requests for covering today’s military parade in Pyongyang to a need to ease the deepening international concerns about the possibility of North Korea using the event to declare its completion of its nuclear armaments. The Moon Jae-in administration has been working hard not to extinguish the flame of peace. It must take advantage of Kim’s trip to pave the way for dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 8, Page 30