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 Friday, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said, Reuters reports.
Pyongyang notified Seoul that Kim Yo Jong would be accompanying 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 week, according to the ministry.
The inclusion of Kim Yo Jong in the delegation is “meaningful” as she is not only the sister of the country’s leader but a senior official at the ruling Workers’ Party, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
But the trip could provide a source of contention between Seoul and Washington, as she was blacklisted last year by the U.S. Treasury Department over human rights abuses and censorship, while Choe is subject to a travel ban under U.N. Security Council sanctions.
Kim Yo Jong is vice director of the party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, which handles ideological messaging through the media, arts and culture. Choe had previously worked for the same organization.
Kim Yo Jong was seen in state media on Tuesday greeting a North Korean art troupe that has since departed for the South to stage performances during the Olympics.
“One of the positives of her visit is that she is someone able to deliver a direct message on behalf of Kim Jong Un”, said 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”.