02/09/2018, 09.42
KOREA
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Kim Yo-jong lands in Seoul, the first Kim to cross the border since 1953

With her, the high-level delegation led by Kim Yong-nam. Pyongyang tries to give a new image of the regime. The young woman is her brother’s confident and perhaps the mastermind behind the "renewal" campaign.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Kim Yo-jong, younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has landed in Seoul: it is the first time that a member of the Kim family, under the leadership of the socialist republic, has visited South Korea.

The North Korean "first lady" arrives along with the rest of the senior delegation sent by Pyongyang and led by Kim Yong-nam, president of the Supreme People's Assembly and most important figure to cross the border since 1953. Kim Yo-jong and Kim Yong-nam will be guests of the South Korean president Moon Jae-in tomorrow for lunch, at the presidential palace in Seoul.

Dialogue between the two Koreas was renewed in the context of the PyeongChang Olympics. During the speech at the beginning of the year, Kim Jong-un opened up to the possibility of North Korea participation at the Games, welcoming the olive branch extended by Seoul. South Korea seized the opportunity and proposed the inter-Korean dialogue which, on January 9 last, led to the international Olympic Committee's go-ahead on January 20.

According to analysts, the purpose of the delegation to the Olympics is to break the diplomatic isolation of Pyongyang. The choice of a young and photogenic figure like Kim Yo-jong serves to give a more "fresh" image of the country, in contrast with the American attempts to highlight the violations of human rights perpetuated by North Korea. Vice President Mike Pence will be present at the opening ceremony alongside the father of Otto Warmbier, an American student arrested in North Korea and released last June in a vegetative state dying shortly thereafter.

Kim Yo-jong, who is believed to be around 30, is deputy director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party, a political force at the helm of the North Korean republic. In recent years she has become a prominent figure in the political landscape of North Korea, and is considered one of the few people to enjoy Kim Jong-un's complete trust. The young woman is also believed to be the mastermind behind the country's "renewal" campaign that includes Kim Jong-un's friendship with former basketball player Dennis Rodman, photo shootings at amusement parks and - according to some - the decision to accept the Seoul's invitation to participate in the Games.

The image of Kim Yo-jong, referred to in South Korea "the North Korean Ivanka", contrasts remarkably with that of the typical North Korean official: she was present at the Eric Clapton concert in Singapore, in 2011, and is often photographed smiling as she follows her older brother on his visits to factories and farms. At the end of the 90s, the two siblings studied together in Switzerland, probably in a state of isolation.

Pyongyang sent 22 athletes, an orchestra of 140 members, 229 cheerleaders, 30 taekwondo athletes and a group of reporters to Seoul. The Samjiyon orchestra should perform during the opening ceremony and on February 11th, led by Hyong Song-wol, n-pop star and regime propaganda director.

According to sceptics, Pyongyang's attempt to "fascinate" the international community is a way to overcome the sanctions wall and continue its missile and nuclear program. The South Korean media speculate that Kim Yo-jong will carry a message from her brother to President Moon Jae-in, on a possible future meeting between the two Korean leaders.

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