Kim Jong Un’s sister joins North Korean Olympic delegation

ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images

PYEONGCHANG — Kim Jong Un is sending his younger sister to South Korea for the Olympics, the first time any member of the Kim dynasty has visited the country.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a statement that Kim Yo Jong will be joining North Korea‘s high-level delegation to the South, headed by Kim Yong Nam, president of North Korea’s parliament.

The 30-year-old, who has seen her profile rise steadily since 2014, was last year promoted to North Korea’s Politburo. She and Kim Jong Un were born to the same mother, Ko Yong Hui.

Shadowy figure

Like most members of the Kim clan, little is definitively known about Kim Yo Jong beyond her official rank. According to NK Leadership Watch, she is a close aide of her brother’s “and since his accession manages his public events, itineraries and logistical needs, among other tasks.”

She was promoted to the country’s Politburo as an alternate member in October.

Born September 26, 1987, Kim Yo Jong studied in Switzerland like her brother and is believed to have attended Kim Il Sung University and a western European school for her higher education.

Her position is such that, according to a Seoul-based think tank run by North Korean defectors, Kim Yo Jong briefly took charge of the country while her brother was reportedly ill with gout or diabetes in late 2014.

Hopes for a breakthrough

Kim’s presence, alongside Kim Yong Nam (no relation), one of North Korea’s top politicians, will raise hopes for a potential breakthrough in relations with the US.

This week, Vice President Mike Pence suggested he would be open to meeting North Korean politicians on the sidelines of the Olympics, saying President Donald Trump “always believes in talking.”

However on Wednesday afternoon he also warned the country the US was about to impose the “toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.”

“We will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all,” he said.

Pence is leading the US delegation to the Winter Olympics, which officially opens Friday. Earlier, he said the isolated nation could join the “family of nations” if it abandoned its nuclear ambitions.

“North Korea can have a better future than the militaristic path, the path of provocation and confrontation that it’s on. Better for its own people, better for the region, and better for peace.”

His openness to dialogue is in sharp contrast to his original intention of coming to the Olympics to deride any notion of normalizing North Korea’s relationships with the outside world.

As part of that, he is taking the father of the late Otto Warmbier, an American student who was jailed in North Korea, to the Opening Ceremony.