The Unification Ministry in Seoul announced Wednesday that Kim Yo Jong, presumed to be around age 30, will be part of a high-ranking government delegation attending the Winter Olympic opening ceremony 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.
Her 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 Yo Jong’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.
She 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.
Unlike her ill-fated brothers, Kim Yo Jong climbed the North Korean regime’s power ladder at an unprecedented speed.
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, she 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 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 20s, Kim Yo Jong’s role inside the 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 with the leader studying in Switzerland in the 1990s.
Such a special profile is expected to make Kim 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.