South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Workers’ Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Director Kim Yo-Jong, Kim Jong-un’s sister, shook hands at the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony on Friday, an unprecedented diplomatic gesture between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Kim Yo-Jong, who is believed to be close to dictator Kim and has the capacity to speak on behalf of the North Korean regime, is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since founding communist tyrant Kim Il-sung took over North Korea. President Moon, a leftist who has encouraged greater diplomacy with the brutal Kim regime, is expected to pursue further talks with Kim and her delegation before they leave.
Yonhap, a South Korean newswire service, first confirmed that the two met at the Opening Ceremony. Soon, photos circulated of their handshake around the world, which also showcased how close the South Korean government had seated Kim and the head of her delegation, Kim Jong Nam (no relation), to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen. The Kims sat behind Moon Jae-in and his wife, while the Pences sat in the same row as the Moons. The Pences did not interact with the Kims during the event.
South Korea’s Joongang Daily suggested that Moon has schemed to bring Pence face-to-face with North Korean leaders. Prior to the Opening Ceremony, Moon hosted a welcome reception and dinner to which Pence was invited. Pence declined the dinner—he chose to spend the time with American athletes, instead—where he would have been sat across from Kim Jong Nam.
While Pence did make some time for the reception, he avoided the North Korean dignitaries at the event, who did not include among them Kim Yo-Jong. Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declined to appear in a photo with the rest of the officials present, including the North Koreans.
In addition to its consistent threats to eviscerate the American mainland with nuclear weapons, North Korea has abducted hundreds of Japanese citizens and forced them to teach their spies how to pass as Japanese. North Korea has never admitted this systematic mass abduction nor, of course, apologized for it. There is no evidence the program to abduct Japanese citizens has ended.
Observers have expressed fascination with the last-minute decision on the part of the North Korean regime to send Kim Yo-Jong south since it was announced three days ago. After some speculation that South Korea could violate international sanctions by allowing Kim in the country—she faces sanctions for her complicity in gross human rights violations and the nation’s illegal nuclear program – Seoul welcomed her at Incheon International Airport on Friday after an abbreviated processing procedure that Chosun Ilbo suggests may not have abided by what international law regarding sanctioned individuals requires.
Kim, rarely seen in public due to North Korea’s repressive control over any media, smiled and greeted South Korean officials cheerily at the airport. The director of arguably the most belligerent state propaganda operation in the world appeared to be working to “present a contrasting image to the rigidity of the reclusive North Korean regime,” according to the Korea Herald.
In addition to her participation in a 20-minute meeting at the airport with South Korean officials and her time with Moon at the opening ceremonies, Kim is expected to attend a lunch meeting with Moon later in the Olympics fortnight. Multiple media outlets suggest that the leftist Moon government is expecting a direct message from Kim Jong-un through his sister.
Despite her role in the mass starvation, repression, and violence the Kim regime has perpetrated on its people for decades, South Korea has provided all the luxury amenities Kim is accustomed to as communist royalty. The Washington Post notes her ride to PyeongChang featured “super-fast Wifi” and her arrival boasted “the kind of paparazzi throng and security detail that are usually the preserve of K-pop stars.”