North Korea’s ‘Princess’ Kim Yo Jong threw Pence side-eye, cheered on a joint Korean hockey team, and pushed propaganda in her whirlwind trip to the Olympics

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, made the most of her three-day trip to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

A high-ranking advisor in the North Korean government who runs the “Propaganda and Agitation Department”, Kim has been under the media microscope during her trip to Pyeongchang.

From her “side-eye” of US Vice President Mike Pence to hints at Korean unification, Kim has stolen the spotlight at the Winter Olympics. While Kim Jong Un is known for his aggressive militaristic behavior, Kim acted as a foil to her brother as she cheerfully greeted foreign leaders and dined with the South Korean president.

Here’s what Kim has done on her historic trip – and why many remain skeptical of the calculated propaganda of the smiling “princess.”


Kim’s visit was bound to make headlines, as it was the first time that a member of the ruling family has crossed the border to visit South Korea since the Korean War in the early 1950s.

Source: Reuters


While Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, accompanied her, she received the vast majority of media attention. Flying in flight number 615 — a reference to June 15, 2007, the last time North and south Korean leaders met — Kim quickly showed she was ready for the scrutiny.

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Kim Yo Jong in Pyongyang, North Korea April 2017.
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REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Source: The Washington Post


Kim stole the show at the Olympics opening ceremonies by throwing a skeptical look to the cameras — celebrated as epic side-eye by many on Twitter — as US Vice President Mike Pence cheered.

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Kim stands behind the US Vice President Mike Pence.
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Screenshot

Source: Business Insider


Kim and Pence were seated surprisingly close to each other at the opening ceremonies, a fact that is especially notable with Pence’s criticism of what he called North Korea’s plan to “hijack” the Olympics with propaganda.

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Getty

“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program,” Pence told members of the media on his flight returning to the US from South Korea, Reuters reported.


Kim greeted other world leaders, including those from South Korea and Japan, at the opening ceremonies. She also stood to cheer when the Korean team entered the stadium under a unified flag.


Besides the side-eye, Kim has caught the public’s attention in South Korea with her constant slight smile — a far cry from the infamously aggressive attitude of her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.


Kim Jong Un is known for threatening nuclear war, reportedly ordering the murder of his half brother, and running what Human Rights Watch calls “one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world.” But at the Olympics, his sister has been seen as a cheerful figure promoting Korean unification.

Sources: The Guardian, Human Rights Watch


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’ image of North Korea as a dangerous and militaristic state.

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Kim shakes hands with Moon Jae In during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
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Reuters

Source: CNN


Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in four times during her trip.

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Moon shakes hands with Kim in Seoul, South Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 10, 2018.
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KCNA/via REUTERS

While having lunch at the president’s residence with Moon on Saturday, Kim presented the South Korean leader with a formal invitation from her brother to visit North Korea.

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Moon talks with Kim Young Nam and Kim during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea
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Yonhap/Reuters

For lunch, the Koreans dined on “grilled flatfish, soup with dried fish balls, buckwheat crepes with persimmon sauce and two types of kimchi,” The Washington Post reported.


This would be the first meeting of the North and South Korean leaders since 2007.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (R) clicks glasses in a toast with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung during his historic three-day visit to Pyongyang in 2000.
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Reuters

Moon has pushed for the Koreas to reach a diplomatic solution, as North Korea has threatened to advance its nuclear and missile programs and the two are still officially at war.

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President Trump and Moon Jae-in shake hands during a meeting at South Korea’s presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, November 7, 2017.
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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Source: Reuters


Following lunch, Kim wrote in the guest book: “I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in our people’s hearts and and bring unification and prosperity in the near future.”


Kim followed up lunch by joining her South Korean hosts for a fancy dinner and to cheer on the unified women’s Korean hockey team on Saturday evening.

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REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Source: The Washington Post


“Kim Yo Jong kept smiling, and she seemed nice,” Lee Ryoon-ryong, a 25-year-old who attended the game told The Washington Post. “I was surprised because she looked different from the image I had about North Koreans.”

Source: The Washington Post


On her final night in South Korea, Kim attended a dinner hosted by Moon’s chief of staff before attending a performance of a North Korean orchestra with Moon.


“I never thought I would visit [the South] so suddenly and believed much would be strange and different but I saw many things that were similar or the same,” Kim said in a toast during Sunday’s dinner.

Source: Reuters


Despite all the press, Kim has almost entirely avoided been caught on tape uttering a single word in public during her trip.

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Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post


But, that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been working hard to push North Korea’s agenda.


The head of the “Propaganda and Agitation Department” has earned comparisons to President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Like Ivanka Trump, who will visit South Korea for the Olympics closing ceremony, Kim acts as an apparent public foil to her nation’s more aggressive leader.

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US President Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump
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Pool/Getty Images

Kim’s appearance at the Olympics “is a signal that North Korea is not this crazy, weird former Cold War state — but it too has young women that are capable and are the future leadership,” North Korean expert Balbina Hwang told CNN.

Source: CNN


As a gatekeeper to Kim Jong Un whose job is to manage propaganda for North Korea’s ruling party, Kim cannot be naive about her appearance at the Olympics.


Meanwhile, people who oppose North Korea’s government say her trip cannot distract from the country’s militaristic actions and human rights violations.


“Kim Yo Jong is totalitarianism with a human face,” Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who works for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Post.

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Getty

Source: The Washington Post


From Kim’s perspective, her trip to the Olympics seems like a resounding success for pushing the regime’s propaganda.

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Pence and Kim watch the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 9, 2018.
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Matthias Hangst/Getty Images