Instead of Kim Jong Un representing his country at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, the North Korean leader sent his sister Kim Yo Jong to represent their country.


This is the first time since the Korean War began in 1950 that a member of the North Korean ruling family visited their neighbor to the south. Kim, 30, is the youngest child of late North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il, and attended school in Switzerland under a fake name, as her two elder brothers did.

Her father described her as having a knack for politics, but because of the North Korean system, she can never be the ruler of the country. Instead, she holds the title of deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and is tasked with protecting the image of her brother. Her aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, performed the same service for her own brother.

Kim met with South Korean president Moon Jae-in at the Olympic opening ceremony, and the pair shook hands. The North Korean representative invited Moon to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, for talks on behalf of her brother. The move was a significant departure from Kim Jong Un’s usual threats. Moon acted diplomatically, responding that he wanted to “create an environment for that to be able to happen.” He also encouraged for North Korea to “actively pursue” a dialogue with the USA.

Vice President Mike Pence attended the ceremony as the representative for the U.S., but avoided the North Korean delegation, despite sitting mere feet away from them in the VIP press box. Pence also did not applaud when the unified Korean team emerged during the nations parade. Additionally, he repeatedly referred to Kim Jong Un’s regime as “the most tyrannical” in the world.

When he returned to the U.S., he told reporters that he had hoped “to express American resolve regarding North Korea… I was encouraged by the affirmation of our alliance and our common purpose, from both [Japanese] Prime Minister Abe and President Moon,” he said. “I leave this trip encouraged that we will continue to work very closely to continue and intensify the maximum-pressure campaign that is underway against the regime in Pyongyang.”

He also shared that he and Moon discussed Kim’s invitation for Moon to travel to Pyongyang. Pence added that he and Moon assured each other “that we will continue to stand strong and work in a coordinated way to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea.”

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