South Korea to send envoy to North Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is sending a special envoy to North Korea, following Pyongyang’s successful participation in the Winter Olympics.

It appears to be in direct response to a personal invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered by his sister Kim Yo Jong during her visit to the South for the Games last month.

Moon doesn’t seem to be preparing for a personal trip above the demilitarized zone (DMZ) just yet, but sending an envoy to Pyongyang would be an important first step.

Multiple North Korean officials met with their South Korean counterparts before Kim’s Olympic trip last month in the first face-to-face meetings between the Koreas in almost two years in January.

Concerns about the Trump administration’s policy towards Pyongyang were also raised this week with the departure of Joseph Yun, the top US State Department for North Korea, who was widely seen as a voice for diplomatic engagement in contrast to the increasingly hawkish National Security Council.


North Korean defector’s reflections on the Olympics

Last week, Park Ui-Song, a thirty-year-old, took a break from his university classes in Seoul to travel to the Gangneung Ice Arena to watch some Olympic competitions. Park, who asked that his name be changed to protect the identity of his family that remains in North Korea, shared the following reaction:

I was hoping that [the outcome might be] starting a dialogue, that sort of humanizing theme would come through. Practically, the North Korean leaders have the power to improve the North-South relationship. I hate them, but they can bring change. So I also kept a close eye on the North Korean leaders like Kim Yo Jong [Kim Jong-Un’s sister] and South Korea President Moon Jae-in. I had a lot of hope and expectation when they showed each other what I thought looked like respect. I want reunification, even though many in the generation below me do not. Of course, I have a family that I’d like to see.

But watching the cheerleaders in particular—actually, watching the media watching the cheerleaders—and seeing how much attention the media gave them and how they were received was disappointing. Their actions weren’t natural. They looked like dolls. Or like actors in a play. And yes, they were very much playing their roles, but I struggled with how the rest of the world was so enamored with them and their looking like robots. At the hockey game [between North Korea and Switzerland], they yelled slogans about unity and sang old Korean folk tunes. They chanted We are one! There might be a desire to unify but it’s not their real intention. The chanting is an order. I do feel sorry for them because they are victims of a dictatorship. They are being used as a tool.

I wish the global audience could separate the North Korean regime and the North Korean people, which I know is very hard to do. But I wish people could try to have that perspective. In many ways, the North Korean people are just like other people—they fall in love, they have their own culture. Once you remove the regime, they’re not so different.

There’s some nostalgia. I’ve been in South Korea for three years, and seeing [North Korean Olympic attendees] on TV, there is an element of homesickness. I still think North Korea is in some ways a beautiful place, and I still identify myself closer to North Korean than South Korean because I spent 26 years of my life in the North. I don’t know if that will gradually change, sometimes I ask myself if it needs to.

I left to go back to Seoul feeling conflicted about it all. Kim [Jong-Un] clearly tried to create an environment for dialogue and also brighten up the world’s perception of the North at these Games, I don’t know if he was successful. Maybe it’s fifty-fifty.


North Korea’s propaganda victory at the Winter Olympics

The Olympics has been a PR dream come true for the murderous Kim Jong Un dictatorship. South Korea’s Moon administration claims to be using the games to foster goodwill, but the reality is that the Hermit Kingdom has taken this opportunity to stage one of history’s great whitewashing operations, where the breathless focus is on the fashion style of the Dear Leader’s sister instead of his forced labor camps and police state.

North Korea is the worst human rights violator on our planet. Its leaders — including the smiling Kim Yo Jong — are active participants in a totalitarian state that starves, abuses and brainwashes millions of people. The Kim regime keeps tight control over its population through outright violent oppression, but also relies heavily on an elaborate system of censorship, propaganda and indoctrination. North Koreans grow up hearing creation myths about their godlike rulers alongside a warped version of history that places North Korea as both the strongest and most noble nation in the world, and as a victim of “American bastards.” According to Jieun Baek, author of “North Korea’s Hidden Revolution,” “children learn to add and subtract by counting dead American soldiers” and learn to use rifles “in case the ‘Yankee imperialists’ attack.”

The brainwashing works. As defector and human rights activist Yeonmi Park explains, before she decided to defect, she “was not aware, like a fish is not aware of water. North Koreans are abducted at birth, so they do not know the concept of freedom or human rights. They do not know that they are slaves.”

For decades, the regime has tried to maintain a strict censorship of all foreign news, books, movies, TV shows and more, and imposes severe punishments on anyone found consuming forbidden media. Individuals found consuming outside media can face long stints in the country’s reeducation centers, where they are worked nearly to death, tortured and abused by guards and underfed to the point of eating locusts and rats found on prison floors. In some cases, those caught with prohibited media are executed and, typically, such events are done in broad daylight with the local population forced to attend.

[From Washington Post Opinion piece by Garry Kasparov]

Warm welcome home from Olympics for Kim Jong-un’s sister

The love affair that Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea’s leader, enjoyed at the Winter Olympics in South Korea has not ended now that she is back home. If Mr. Kim sent his sister to the Olympics to mount a “charm offensive,” as United States officials feared, she did her job. Her visit has managed to help soften her country’s image among South Koreans, at least for the moment.

She delivered her brother’s surprise invitation for President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to visit the North for a summit meeting, and Mr. Moon met her four times during her three-day trip.

Despite the intense curiosity her visit generated, little is known about Ms. Kim, a member of the most secretive ruling dynasty in the world. Outside officials are not even sure about her age or marital status, though she is most often said to be 30 and married.

Ms. Kim is the youngest child of Kim Jong-il, the North’s second leader, who died in 2011. She and Kim Jong-un studied in Switzerland as teenagers, using aliases. Her father first noticed her political acumen when she was still young, analysts say. Back in 2001, when the Russian ambassador to North Korea asked Kim Jong-il which of his sons would become successor, Mr. Kim said that his sons were “idle blockheads” and that it was his daughters who he thought had the intellect and personality to be “reliable successors,” Michael Madden, an expert on North Korea leadership, wrote last week. Ms. Kim’s trip to South Korea was her debut on the global stage.

Certainly, when Ms. Kim was in Seoul last week, she was nothing but a charmer. She is said to have told the South Korean leader that if he and her brother meet, “the North-South relations will improve so fast that yesterday would seem a distant past.”

“I wish I could see you again in Pyongyang soon,” she told Mr. Moon at a luncheon on Saturday, according to South Korean officials. “I wish that Your Excellency President will leave a mark for future generations by playing a key role in opening a new chapter for reunification.”

In South Korean media, Ms. Kim was nicknamed “Princess” or “North Korea’s Ivanka,” likening her influence with her brother to that of Ivanka Trump’s on her father, President Trump.

[New York Times]

Kim Jong Un’s sister joins North Korean Winter Olympics delegation

Kim Jong Un is sending his younger sister to South Korea for the Winter Olympics, the first time any member of the Kim dynasty has visited the country. The 30-year-old, who has seen her profile rise steadily since 2014, was last year promoted to North Korea’s Politburo. She and Kim Jong Un were born to the same mother, Ko Yong Hui.

Kim Yo Jong (center) seated among other officials

Kim Yo Jong’s inclusion in the North Korean delegation is likely to irritate the United States, which has sent its own delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence to counter North Korea’s charm offensive. Last year, the US Treasury Department included Kim Yo Jong on its list of blacklisted officials. As the vice director of the Workers’ Party Propaganda and Agitation Department, she has been targeted by US sanctions.

Like most members of the Kim clan, little is known about Kim Yo Jong beyond her official rank. According to NK Leadership Watch, she is a close aide of her brother’s “and since his accession manages his public events, itineraries and logistical needs, among other tasks.”

Her position is such that, according to a Seoul-based think tank run by North Korean defectors, Kim Yo Jong briefly took charge of the country while her brother was reportedly ill with gout or diabetes in late 2014.

Born September 26, 1987, Kim Yo Jong studied in Switzerland like her brother and is believed to have attended Kim Il Sung University and a western European school for her higher education.

The North Korean delegation also includes Hyon Song Wol, the lead singer of Kim Jong Un’s favorite girl band, whose every move was followed by a insatiable South Korean press during a pre-Games tour last month. Hyon’s the closest thing North Korea has to a celebrity and her presence in Pyeongchang is an indication of how seriously North Korea is taking its Olympic diplomatic mission.


Read more about Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un promotes his sister to center of power

In a meeting of the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party on Saturday, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un made his sister, Kim Yo Jong, an alternate member of the politburo — the top decision-making body over which Kim Jong Un presides.

Alongside Kim Jong Un himself, the promotion makes Kim Yo Jong the only other millennial member of the influential body. Her new position indicates the 28-year-old has become a replacement for Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, who had been a key decision maker when former leader Kim Jong Il was alive.

“It is a further consolidation of the Kim family’s power,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North website.

In January, the U.S. Treasury blacklisted Kim Yo Jong along with other North Korean officials over “severe human rights abuses”.

North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, who named Donald Trump “President Evil” in a bombastic speech to the U.N. General Assembly last month, was also promoted to full vote-carrying member of the politburo.

“Ri can now be safely identified as one of North Korea’s top policy makers,” said Madden. “Even if he has informal or off the record meetings, Ri’s interlocutors can be assured that whatever proposals they proffer will be taken directly to the top,” he said.


Kim Jong-un’s sister consolidates power

Kim Yeo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, appears to have risen to a position of considerable power in the secretive regime. Yeo-jong now holds a key post in the Workers Party’s department in charge of promotions and appointments. Senior officials like Army politburo chief Hwang Pyong-so now salute her.

Kim Yeo-jong rose quickly through the party ranks and consolidated her position, thanks to her quick wit and natural political acumen. Since September last year, she has been her brother’s de facto secretary, with most documents being submitted for approval by Kim passing through her desk, according to some intelligence sources.

“Rumors began spreading late last year that the fastest way of getting Kim Jong-un’s attention is to go through Kim Yeo-jong,” the source said. “She’s gaining power by controlling the information and deciding who gets to contact him.”

Kim Yeo-jong apparently won the trust of senior officials by consoling them and offering them advice when they were criticized by her brother. The two of them are seen as a classic good cop/bad cop act.

But her political ambitions have apparently led to some jealousy in the family. “When Yeo-jong was on maternity leave in May last year, Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol-ju appointed a close relative of hers, and that frayed their relationship,” another source said.

A source said Kim Yeo-jong’s husband is a university professor in Pyongyang and comes from an ordinary background, denying recent rumors that she is married to the son of senior official Choe Ryong-hae.

[Chosun Ilbo]

Kim Yo-jung, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, makes rare public appearance

Kim Yo-jung, the younger sister of North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un, has reportedly reappeared in public after two months out of the public eye.

Kim Yo-jung, 28, was photographed accompanying her older brother as he inspected a tree nursery operated by the army, South Korea’s Yonhap news reported.

The South Korean news site claimed that images of Kim’s sister, appearing slimmer than her past appearances and wearing a knee-length black dress with a fur collar, had prompted speculation she had recently given birth to her first child. Kim Yo-jung married a former classmate from Kim Il-sung University. Her baby was expected in May.

It has been suggested Kim, who studied in Switzerland at the same time as her brother, is Kim’s closest confidante, working alongside him as deputy director of the Worker’s Party.

The position was formerly held by her uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was publicly executed for crimes against the state two years ago.

 [The Independent]

Introducing Kim Sol-Song, the shadowy older sister of Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-Jong, may be on the political rise but were you aware of Kim’s shadowy older sister, Kim Sol-Song?

According to Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership expert at CAN Corporation, Kim Sol-Song is the “purest of the pure,” because she’s the only one among Kim and his siblings ever officially recognized by their grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung.

“She is a person who has her finger on the pulse of the regime. And she is probably helping Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong in mentoring them in the relationship building that needs to be done for Kim Jong Un to be able to consolidate his power,” Gause said.

Another sibling, Kim Jong Chul, an older brother of Kim Jong-Un, recently appeared singing along at an Eric Clapton concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Kim Jong Chul has gone to Clapton concerts all over the world. He has plenty of time and money on his hands, analysts say, since he was passed over for the leadership position in favor of his younger brother.

“Kim Jong-Chul was not seen as being capable of dealing with the blood sport which is North Korean politics, especially as you move from succession period to consolidation period. And unlike his brother Kim Jong Un he was seen as being potentially too weak,” said Gause.

Now, analysts say Kim Jong Chul is in a network of children of the elites who allegedly bring in money for the regime from black market deals.

And there is another brother who was also passed over. The oldest, Kim Jong Nam, embarrassed the family in 2001 when he was caught trying to get to Tokyo’s Disneyland on a fake Dominican passport. He’s said to spend his days traveling and gambling.

But the sibling with real influence might just be Kim’s older sister, Kim Sol-Song?


North Korean propaganda chief makes way for Kim Jong Un sister?

An octogenarian dinosaur in the North Korean regime seems to have finally retired and made way for leader Kim Jong-un’s sister.

Footage shows Kim Ki-nam (86), the one-time secretary of North Korea’s Workers Party, sitting in the third pew alongside vice-ministerial officials rather than on the leaders’ platform during the third session of the Supreme People’s Assembly in Pyongyang on April 9.

Kim Ki-nam was also not seen on the leaders platform at a rally marking the 103rd birthday of regime founder Kim Il-sung last Tuesday.

This suggests he has retired from his job and assumed an honorary post.

It is highly likely that Kim Jong-un’s sister Yeo-jong has replaced him.

“Kim Jong-un probably appointed his sister, whom he can trust, as party secretary for propaganda,” a source speculated. “Kim Ki-nam’s old age was a consideration for a post that is in charge of idolizing the young leader.”

[Chosun Ilbo]