First member of North Korea’s ruling dynasty to set foot in the South

Photo released by North Korean State Media shows Kim Jong Un’s sister at a table with other high-ranking government officials.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (second from R) shakes hands with Kim Yo-jong, a sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in the city located some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 9, 2018. Kim arrived in South Korea earlier in the day as part of a 22-member delegation led by the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam (L). (Yonhap)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in briefly encountered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister on Friday at the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Moon and Kim Yo-jung shook hands at their first-ever encounter during the ceremony. Kim arrived in the country earlier Friday as part of a delegation led by the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam.

She is the only member of the North’s ruling family to have ever visited South Korea.

The North Korean delegates are scheduled to attend a lunch meeting hosted by Moon on Saturday.

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) — Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, is set to become the first member of North Korea’s ruling dynasty to set foot in the rival South this week.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul announced Wednesday that Kim Yo-jong, presumed to be aged about 30, will be part of a high-ranking government delegation attending the Winter Olympic opening ceremony slated for Friday.

The team will be led by Kim Yong-nam, the nominal head of state. Kim Yo-jong is widely believed to be powerful and close enough to the leader to directly represent his views.

Kim’s visit could further boost the reconciliatory mood between the Koreas. Seoul wants to pave the way for the restoration of relations and possibly to talks for the denuclearization of the North.

Kim’s high status in the North Korean leadership and close blood tie with the leader raised expectations that she may serve as the reclusive brother’s representative to the South Korean government.

Kim Yo-jong is Kim Jong-un’s only sibling who is part of the North Korean leadership. Kim Jong-chol, the leader’s older brother, went out of the public eye after his younger brother took over the leadership. Kim Jong-nam, the leader’s half brother, was assassinated by apparent North Korean agents at Kuala Lumpur international airport in Malaysia last year.

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Unlike her ill-fated brothers, Yo-jong climbed the North Korean regime’s power ladder at an unprecedented speed.

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She reportedly joined the Kim Jong-un regime in its initial stage, in 2012, before taking up a deputy director post in the Workers’ Party of Korea’s central committee about two years later. Ever since, Yo-jong has frequently been seen standing close to her brother at major state events, an indication of her closeness with him and the regime.

The Unification Ministry currently presumes that she is also serving as deputy chief of the all-important ruling party propaganda and agitation department.

Experts here said that having started early in her 20’s, Yo-jong’s role inside the current North Korea regime has already far exceeded what Kim Kyong-hui, once-powerful sister of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, did for her brother’s regime in the past.

She is also known to have spent two years together with the leader studying in Switzerland in the 1990s.

Such a special profile is expected to make Yo-jong the mouth and ears of Kim Jong-un when she meets with South Korean officials, especially at a time when Seoul is desperately handling the difficult task of broker talks between the North and the United States for denuclearization.