- Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
- Ivanka Trump will arrive in South Korea for the Winter Olympics‘ closing ceremonies on Friday.
- Her appearance is sure to spark comparisons to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who drew media attention earlier on in the Olympics for her role as a cheerful propaganda pusher.
- The two women have superficial similarities, but Kim is the head of propaganda for a brutal authoritarian regime.
Ivanka Trump, the daughter of and advisor to President Donald Trump, is set to arrive in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Friday for the last days of the Winter Olympics.
Ivanka Trump is expected to use the trip as an opportunity to advocate for the American agenda in Korea. She has a dinner planned with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae In, on Friday evening. Korean media outlets report that Moon hopes to convince Trump to lobby her father to visit North Korea on a diplomatic trip.
The first daughter will also be forced to face an unwelcome comparison. Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, quickly became a media obsession during her three-day stint at the Winter Olympics.
Kim made headlines with her cheerful and reserved attitude, a calculated foil to her brother’s militaristic presence. Commentators drew comparisons between Kim and Trump, another influential woman deployed to soften public perception of a nation’s leader.
Backlash quickly emerged to what many saw as overly positive media coverage of Kim. However, right or wrong, Trump’s appearance at the Olympics will be judged against Kim’s celebrated visit.
Here’s how Ivanka Trump and Kim Yo Jong actually match up.
The root of the comparisons between Ivanka Trump and Kim Yo Jong is a simple case of the two being in the same place at (nearly) the same time. Trump is visiting South Korea for the Olympic closing ceremony, while Kim attended the opening ceremony.
Both women are expected to push their countries’ agendas at the Olympics. Trump is a senior presidential advisor, while Kim runs the “Propaganda and Agitation Department” for North Korea’s ruling party.
- White House/Joyce N. Boghosian
Both women are also related to the leaders of their countries, as Trump is the daughter of President Donald Trump and Kim is the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump’s being appointed a White House advisor — which began as an unofficial role following her father’s election — was criticized by many on the left as unethical.
- Getty/ Jeff J Mitchell
Meanwhile, Kim Yo Jong and Kim Jong Un’s familial ties are crucial to their ability to run a repressive, authoritarian state. In 2013, North Korea’s founding principles were revised to ensure that only those in the “Baekdu bloodline” could lead the country, allowing Kim and her brother to consolidate power.
Beyond familial ties, the argument that Kim and Trump are playing similar roles in shaping public perception of their nations carries some weight at first glance.
Since the early days of President Donald Trump’s campaign, Ivanka Trump has served as a foil to her father, attempting to portray him in an appealing light for more progressive Americans.
- Pool/Getty Images
President Trump’s political rise was built in part on aggressive anti-immigration policies and bombastic statements — often on Twitter. In comparison, his daughter has been more moderate and reserved in public.
- Alex Wong/Getty Images
While President Trump has faced allegations of sexual harassment and assault, Ivanka Trump has maintained that the White House is dedicated to empowering women.
- REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Even Trump’s public presentation is designed to showcase a more accessible version of the Trump administration.
In contrast to President Trump’s flashy aesthetic, the first daughter’s clothing is typically from her own reasonably-priced clothing brand or fast-fashion retailers such as Zara.
- REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Similarly, Kim’s no-frills style at the Winter Olympics sparked conversation, with South Korean media outlets obsessing over her lack of makeup, straightforward hairstyle, and minimalist outfits.
Source: The Washington Post
Like Ivanka Trump, Kim maintained a poised and quietly cheerful image — a far cry from the aggression expected of her family.
- REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Commentators theorized that Kim, who was called “Princess Yo Jong” by her father Kim Jong Il, is launching a “charm offensive” to change other countries’ perception of North Korea as a dangerous and militaristic state.
“Kim Yo Jong kept smiling, and she seemed nice,” Lee Ryoon-ryong, a 25-year-old who attended the Korean women’s ice hockey match at the Olympics, told The Washington Post. “I was surprised because she looked different from the image I had about North Koreans.”
Source: The Washington Post
Because Kim and Trump are both powerful female relatives of male leaders that many perceive to be aggressive, it’s easy to mentally group them together.
- Mario Tama/Getty Images
However, the similarities are ultimately shallow in light of the two women’s actual goals — not just their calculated public presentation.
Trump’s policies cannot be considered alongside the atrocities that human rights organizations say have been committed by the North Korean state.
- KCNA/via REUTERS
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have been placed in prison camps and other detention facilities for perceived opposition to the government or its propaganda, which is run by Kim Yo Jong.
Source: Humans Rights Watch
North Koreans can face torture, sexual abuse, and public execution for actions such as watching South Korean films or using Chinese cell phones.
Kim plays an active role in promoting her brother’s image as a a powerful leader, ensuring that the authoritarian and repressive rule is allowed to continue.
- REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Kim presented a more cheerful, alternate version of North Korean leadership, but that new image must be put in context. The last time South Korea hosted the games, in 1987, a North Korean agent blew up a civilian airliner, killing all 115 crew and passengers.
Source: Business Insider
While it is unusual and triggers ethical concerns for a US first daughter to serve as an official presidential advisor, Trump isn’t part of a brutal political dynasty known for using public executions to retain power.
Drawing comparisons between Trump and Kim can be helpful in understanding how governments peddle propaganda and push certain political narratives. Tracking how the world perceives Trump and Kim is in many ways necessary, as two governments attempt to gain an international advantage.
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
But to consider the two women’s roles at all comparable is devastatingly wrong — and proves Kim’s power in wielding propaganda to the advantage of herself and North Korea.