The opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on Friday brought together leaders from around the world, with the US seated near Japan, Germany, South Korea, and, surprisingly, North Korea.
Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was there – the first member of the North’s ruling family to visit the South since 1953. She attended the ceremony along with the head of the North’s Olympic delegation, 90-year-old Kim Yong Nam, who leads North Korea’s parliament.
But Kim Yo Jong didn’t speak or shake hands with US Vice President Mike Pence, who was there with the Second Lady, Karen Pence. Pence had also avoided shaking hands with or sitting next to Kim Yong Nam at a reception before the start of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Pence reportedly didn’t have to sit in the box with the North Koreans – but he wanted to make a political point.
Here’s what happened:
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence sat in the front of Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam.
— James Pearson (@pearswick) February 9, 2018
It doesn’t look like they smiled a lot.
By contrast, Kim Yo Jong notably shared a warm greeting with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.
- Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
The North Korean and South Korean leaders cheered together when their combined team came out — but Pence didn’t stand.
Pence reportedly didn’t have to sit in the box with the North Koreans — he had a reason.
The US vice president wanted to show solidarity with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“At any moment, he could have gotten up and left and sat somewhere else, and then you would have had the imagine of North sitting in the box with South Korea and Japan,” a White House official told reporters on Air Force Two. “But he stayed there the entire time.”
- REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon