Go Search Go Contents Go to bottom site map

(LEAD) N.K. leader's sister engages in peace offensive in ruling family's first trip to S. Korea

2018/02/09 16:22

Article View Option

(ATTN: ADDS more details, background throughout)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, made a rare visit to South Korea Friday, drawing attention to what message she would bring from her brother over inter-Korean ties.

Wearing a dark fur-collared coat, Kim arrived at Incheon International Airport at 1:46 p.m. as a member of a high-level delegation led by ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam.

With smile on her face, she looked calm when meeting with South Korean officials, in contrast to her somewhat cheery image portrayed in North Korea's state media.

Her arrival marks the first time that a member of the North's ruling family dynasty has visited the South following the 1950-53 Korean War.

This photo taken on Feb. 9, 2018, shows Kim Yo-jong (C), the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arriving in South Korea as a member of the North's high-level delegation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap) This photo taken on Feb. 9, 2018, shows Kim Yo-jong (C), the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arriving in South Korea as a member of the North's high-level delegation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

Her visit comes amid a reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas surrounding the North's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games following the New Year's message by the North's ruler. Kim announced his willingness to send the North's delegates to the event, de-escalating tensions sparked by North Korea's nuclear and missile tests last year.

Liberal President Moon voiced hope that the Feb. 9-25 Games will help improve stalled inter-Korean relations and possibly pave the way for the resolution of North Korea's nuclear issue and a broader dialogue between the United States and the North.

Kim Yo-jong's high political status in the regime and close blood ties with the leader raised expectations that she would come to the South with her brother's personal message to Moon.

"The dispatch of her indicates that Kim Jong-un has a strong will to improve ties with the South," Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, said.

She is Kim Jong-un's sole sibling remaining in the North's leadership. Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong were born to the late leader Kim Jong-il and Ko Yong-hui, a Korean resident in Japan, who died in 2004.

Their elder brother, Kim Jong-chol, stepped out of the public eye after Kim Jong-un assumed power in late 2011. Kim Jong-nam, the leader's half brother, was killed in Malaysia last year, apparently on an order from Kim Jong-un.

Kim Yo-jong, presumed to be around 30, has risen to the core of the regime's power structure at an unprecedented pace. She is widely seen as playing an increasingly greater role, exceeding what Kim Kyong-hui, the once-powerful sister of Kim Jong-il, did in the past for the regime.

Kim's public activity began in 2014 when she accompanied her brother to a polling station for an election to pick parliamentary delegates.

She was often seen to be accompanying Kim Jong-un during major inspections and handling protocol for key events as the first vice director of a party department presumed to be the propaganda and agitation unit.

This photo captured from footage by North Korea's state TV broadcaster on Dec. 30, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong (R). (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap) This photo captured from footage by North Korea's state TV broadcaster on Dec. 30, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong (R). (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

She was named an alternate member of the Workers' Party of Korea's (WPK) politburo, the top decision-making body, at the party's key meeting in October 2017. It happened only 17 months after she became a member of the WPK's central committee at a party congress in May 2016.

Kim Yo-jong probably has been promoted to the No. 2 post in the WPK's propaganda and agitation department in charge of idolizing Kim Jong-un and controlling the public.

Some experts said that the North's peace offensive is aimed at weakening international sanctions and driving a wedge in the decades-long alliance between Seoul and Washington.

North Korea said Thursday that it has no intentions to meet with the U.S. delegation, led by Vice President Mike Pence, on the sidelines of the PyeongChang Games.

Pence was earlier quoted as saying that the U.S. will not allow "North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games."

   Analysts cautioned against any excessive optimism about her travel's impacts, saying that an improvement of inter-Korean relations would be limited without progress over the resolution of North Korea's nuclear standoff.

North Korea held a scaled-down military parade Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of its armed forces' foundation, on the eve of the PyeongChang Games.

But it showed off long-range missiles, including the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, in a message that it would not abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

This photo taken on Feb. 9, 2018, shows a North Korean jet carrying North Korea's high-level delegation after arriving in South Korea. (Yonhap) This photo taken on Feb. 9, 2018, shows a North Korean jet carrying North Korea's high-level delegation after arriving in South Korea. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

(END)

angloinfo.com