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(LEAD) N. Korean leader's sister highlights 'charm offensive'

2018/02/09 23:49

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SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Friday stepped into the spotlight at the Winter Olympics taking place in South Korea, becoming the first member of the communist nation's ruling dynasty to cross the border since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim Yo-jong arrived here on the PRK-615 plane, which is apparently a private jet belonging to her older brother, previously known as Chammae-1, as part of North Korea's high-profile delegation to the opening of the Olympic games in the eastern town of PyeongChang.

It's led by Kim Yong-nam, a 90-year-old who has long held the status of the North's No. 2 leader in its ostensible power hierarchy.

But it did not take long time to confirm that the royal family member, reportedly aged 30, is more powerful than the ceremonial head of state.

He politely asked her to take the seat first in front of South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon at the VIP room of Incheon International Airport.

Apparently mindful of TV cameras and reporters here, she requested the elderly man to sit there with a twinkle in her eyes. Finally, he did so.

Kim Yo-jong (2nd from R), sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, asks Kim Yong-nam, the country's ceremonial head of state, to take a seat at the VIP room of Incheon International Airport on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap) Kim Yo-jong (2nd from R), sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, asks Kim Yong-nam, the country's ceremonial head of state, to take a seat at the VIP room of Incheon International Airport on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap)

Clad in a dark coat, she appeared calm, relaxed but a little bit cocky, often with smile on her face, arriving at the airport and heading to PyeongChang on a KTX bullet train amid watertight security measures. On the move, she was surrounded by bodyguards amid keen media attention.

Later in the day, she sat among world leaders, including those from the United States and Japan, during the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Albeit not in the capacity of a state leader, Kim took a seat at the VIP section along with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- the leaders of the countries keen on compelling Pyongyang to change course towards denuclearization.

Shortly before the opening ceremony, Moon shook hands and briefly chatted with her. What they talked about remains unknown.

North Korea observers view her appearance in South Korea as highlighting Kim Jong-un's recent charm offensive taking advantage of the Olympics. He earlier sent hundreds of female performers and cheerleaders to the South, with nearly two dozen North Korean athletes taking part in the games.

Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arrives at a train station near PyeongChang, the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics, on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap) Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, arrives at a train station near PyeongChang, the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics, on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap)

Some western news outlets have nicknamed her "North Korea's Ivanka."

   U.S. President Donald Trump has his daughter Ivanka Trump as a key adviser.

For the North's leader, his sole sister is apparently more than that. Formally holding the post of first vice director of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea propaganda department, Kim is said to be the only figure whom the leader trusts. She is also known to be able to give direct advice to the leader.

They reportedly spent childhood together in Switzerland.

That's a reason why South Korean government officials and media are keenly interested in a written or verbal message she carries. She's scheduled to meet with President Moon Jae-in on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the flight code-name PRK-615 seems to indicate the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the historic date of the first-ever inter-Korean summit talks in 2000.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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