North Korea is sending a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, including Kim Yo-Jong, the younger sister and trusted advisor of leader Kim Jong-Un. Kim Yo-Jong and her brother are close, and she was recently nominated to the North Korea’s Politburo.
Her visit will be the first time anyone in the dynasty has visited the country, something South Korea has welcomed. United States Vice President Mike Pence will also be attending, and has warned that the US could impose stricter sanctions on North Korea.
Kim Yo-Jong has quickly risen the political ranks in North Korea, and is seen as responsible for her brother’s publicity stunts.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. She is the Youngest of Seven, and Her Private Life is Very Private
Kim Yo-Jong is the daughter of Kim Jong-il and Ko Yong-hui, and believed to be the youngest of seven siblings. She was born in 1987 and is the younger sister Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea. Not much is known about her, as is common when it comes to members of North Korea’s notoriously secret regime.
She studied in Bern, Switzerland from 1996 to 2000, and possibly studied at the Kim Il-sung Military University. She attended Kim Il-sung University, where she studied computer science.
She had a child in May 2015. The father is thought to be a fellow student at Kim Il-sung university, though his identity is not confirmed. He is thought to either work as part of a military unit that guards Kim Jong-un, or as an official at Room 39.
2. She’s Been Called Kim Jong-Un’s ‘Ivanka,’ Because her Brother Listens to her Advice
Kim Yo-Jong and her brother are close. They spent four years studying together in Switzerland, and some have said that years of isolation together in North Korea brought them closer. According to North Korea Leadership Watch, the siblings lived in a private residence in boarding school. While they have other siblings, many of them are half siblings, while Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-Jung have the same mother.
In 1998, their maternal aunt defected. In 2004, their mother died, and their father died in 2011. Throughout these events, the siblings became closer.
“Her role in the WPK Propaganda and Agitation Department secures her status as one of her brother’s closest aides and one of the most powerful cadres of his young regime,” says Michael Madden in 38 North.
At their father’s funeral, she was shown in broadcasts leading funeral processions and standing near her brother, though she was not a funeral committee member. Since then, she’s been seen with Kim Jong-Un often.
3. She’s Risen Quickly in Politics, Especially After her Father’s Death
Kim Yo-Jon started her career at the WPK Publicity and Information Department. The office manages the news media and public affairs for North Korea. It also manages political education and ideological indoctrination activities.
She was given a position at the National Defense Commission in 2012. She worked as tour manager for her brother. In 2014, she accompanied her brother to vote for the Supreme People’s Assembly. This was the first time she was publicly identified as a senior official of the WPK Central Committee.
She has been head of the Workers Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department since March 2015, and also holds an unknown vice ministerial post.
In 2017, she was made an alternate member of Politburo, the decision making arm of the Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea. The decision confirmed her brother’s trust in her. She also plays the role of informant, according to North Korean analyst Ken Gause.
4. She is Responsible for Kim Jong-Un’s Cult of Personality
She is credited with developing her brother’s image, and organizing most major public events in North Korea. Following trends from other dictators around the world that have built cult personalities, she uses propaganda and government-sponsored demonstrations to create an idealized figure who demands praise.
She has encouraged him to be seen as a man of the people, a strategy that includes school visits, theme park visits, and becoming friends with Dennis Rodman, the former NBA star.
5. She Will be Attending the Olympics, as Will Ivanka Trump and Mike Pence
She will be part of North Korea’s delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
It will be the first time anyone from the dynasty has visited South Korea, and the country welcomed the announcement.
“We believe that the North’s announcement of the delegation shows its willingness to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula along with a message of celebration for the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games,” the government of South Korea said statement. “It is significant that the delegation also includes Kim Yo Jong, who is Chairman Kim Jong Un’s sister and holds an important position in the Workers’ Party of Korea.”
The delegation is headed by Kim Yong Nam, the president of North Korea’s parliament. The United States is sending its own delegation, led by Vice President Mike Pence, in an effort to counter North Korea. The delegation also includes Ivanka Trump, and the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being released from North Korean custody. “We’re traveling to the Olympics to make sure that North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime,” Pence said to CNN.
Pence has said he would be open to meeting North Korean politicians during the Olympics, but also said the United States was going to impose tough and aggressive sanctions on North Korea.