From Eric Clapton to Dennis Rodman, she has scripted an image makeover with a finesse few would have expected of the hermit kingdom.
As North Korea takes the stage with the opening of the Pyeongchang Olympics, its sudden shift from menacing hermit to engaging debutante is attributed to Kim Jong-un’s baby sister Kim Yo-jong, who is said to be the mastermind behind a rebranding campaign that includes her brother befriending Dennis Rodman, staging photo ops at amusement parks and possibly even accepting South Korea’s invitation to the Olympics.
The deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department within the Worker’s Party, she first entered the public eye in 2011 at one of the darkest points in North Korean history, during the funeral of her father, Kim Jong-il. Now she appears on the world stage at arguably the brightest moment in its recent history, blazing the trail with a stunning Olympic charm offensive.
That offensive intensified this week, with the announcement that she would attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics, marking the first time a member of the Kim family has ever entered the country, and sparking hope in the hearts of South Korean liberals that this is a genuine shot at peace. Some worry, though, that the two Koreas have all their work still ahead of them when it comes to peace. “Unification is needed,” said Kim Moon, a coffee shop manager in eastern Seoul, “but the logistics for both countries to adapt to each other’s cultures might not be possible”.