Ivanka Trump is doomed to draw comparisons to a North Korean ‘princess’ at the Olympics — here’s how the two women known for their ‘charm offensive’ strategies actually match up

Kim Yo Jong shakes hands with President of South Korea, Moon Jae In, during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

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Kim Yo Jong shakes hands with President of South Korea, Moon Jae In, during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
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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.

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Mike Pence (bottom right) at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics near Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong.
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Getty

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.

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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.

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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.

Source: BBC


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.

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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.

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Ivanka Trump at the Republican National Convention in July 2016.
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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.

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Ivanka Trump looks at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) during President Donald Trump’s roundtable discussion on the advancement of women entrepreneurs and business leaders.
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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.

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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.

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Kim Yo Jong claps next to Kim Yong Nam at the women’s ice hockey preliminary round match at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.
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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.

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018.
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Yonhap/Reuters

“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.”

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Kim Yo Jong shakes hands with Moon Jae In during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.
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Reuters

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.

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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.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
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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.

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Reuters/KCNA

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.

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North Koreans watch a news report showing North Korea’s Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile launch on an electronic screen at Pyongyang station in Pyongyang, North Korea.
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Kyodo/Reuters

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.

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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.

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Ivanka Trump hosts a listening session with military spouses in the Roosevelt Room at the White House August 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.
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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.