Kim Jong Un’s sister begins unprecedented South Korea visit for Winter Olympics

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, arrives at the Incheon International Airport in Incheon to be her brother’s special envoy to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. (AP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Kim Jong Un’s sister begins unprecedented South Korea visit for Winter Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: In a stunning turn of events, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister arrived in South Korea on Friday to be her brother’s special envoy to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Kim Yo Jong, who is probably Kim’s closest confidant and is a senior cadre in North Korea’s ruling party, is the first member of the Kim dynasty to visit South Korea, though her grandfather, Kim Il Sung, traveled to areas occupied by his troops south of what is now the Demilitarized Zone during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The trip has the potential to become something of a coming out party — certainly for Kim Yo Jong, but also for her deeply isolated country.
Kim Jong Un hasn’t set foot outside North Korea or met a single head of state since he assumed power upon the death of their father, Kim Jong Il, in late 2011. His single-minded pursuit of a nuclear arsenal to counter what he sees as the threat of invasion by the US has ratcheted up tensions not only with his rivals but also with primary trading partner China and with Russia, once a key benefactor.
The arrival was broadcast live on South Korean television. Looking confident and relaxed, she had a brief meeting with South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, before being whisked away in a black limousine and catching the high-speed train to Pyeongchang.
Kim Yo Jong, who is believed to be about 30, has been rapidly rising within the North’s power structure and is believed to be in charge of shaping her brother’s public persona. But she has generally remained safely cloaked in her brother’s shadow. This is her first high-profile international appearance at center stage, though she is technically just a member of a delegation headed by the North’s aging senior statesman, 90-year-old Kim Yong Nam.
For security reasons, few details of Kim’s three-day itinerary have been made public.
After arriving on Kim Jong Un’s personal jet at the South’s ultramodern Incheon International Airport— the North’s flagship airline is subject to sanctions — she traveled to Pyeongchang to attend the games’ opening ceremony, where the North and South Korean athletes will march together behind a blue-and-white “unification” flag.
That promised to be an emotionally charged moment.
The two Koreas, which remain technically at war, have cycled through countless periods of chill and thaw since their division 70 years ago. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and blew up a South Korean commercial airliner the year before. The past year has been particularly acrimonious as the North has accelerated its nuclear weapons development and test launches of missiles that are now believed to be able to reach most or all of the US, South Korea’s most important ally.
The delegation’s most substantive event may come outside of the Olympic ambit on Saturday.
Along with the rest of the North’s senior delegation, Kim is to have lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House. The meeting could turn out to be just a lunch, a photo op or a nicety. But it is so unprecedented, and its announcement on Thursday was so sudden, that rumors are already swirling it could open the door to much more — perhaps even an offer for Moon to travel to Pyongyang.
The North and South held summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007, both hosted by Kim Jong Il.
Caution is in order here: Considering the depth and complexity of the very real problems that keep the Koreas apart, it’s highly unlikely a luncheon would lead to an immediate breakthrough on something like the North’s nuclear weapons development. Vice President Mike Pence is also here to attend the opening ceremony for the US, and he has publicly and repeatedly warned South Korea not to let down its guard to a North Korean charm offensive.
Even so, just holding such a meeting seemed unimaginable only a few months ago.
During the rest of her stay, Kim will have ample opportunity to play up the feel-good side of her country’s participation in the games.
The first hockey match featuring the joint North-South women’s ice hockey will also be held on Saturday — they play Switzerland — and that would be an event she might want to see. The North has also sent a several-hundred women strong cheering squad, an orchestra with singers and dancers and a demonstration taekwondo martial arts team that will perform in Seoul and places near the Olympic venues.
If her schedule permits, Kim might be able to take in a musical performance by her compatriots in Seoul on Sunday.
Security for anything involving the North Koreans has been exceptionally tight.
A small but persistent group of right-wing protesters have shown up at several venues to burn North Korean flags and tear up portraits of Kim’s brother. The group is fringe, but their demonstrations have generated irate reactions in North Korea’s state-run media and could potentially spin out into a major incident if they ever manage to get closer to the North Koreans themselves — or especially Kim and her entourage.
So far, police have kept the two at a safe distance.


Maurizio Sarri does not fear the sack after Chelsea’s sorry show against Manchester United

Updated 19 February 2019
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Maurizio Sarri does not fear the sack after Chelsea’s sorry show against Manchester United

  • Italian still focused on job at hand with Blues out the FA Cup and falling in the Premier League.
  • Sarri has lost the fans in a short space of time at Stamford Bridge. (AFP)

LONDON: Maurizio Sarri insists he is not worried about being sacked as Chelsea manager despite his troubled side’s lacklustre FA Cup surrender against Manchester United.
Sarri faces a fight to save his job after FA Cup holders Chelsea crashed to a 2-0 fifth round defeat at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Ander Herrera headed United into the lead from Paul Pogba’s cross in the 31st minute.
France star Pogba doubled United’s advantage on the stroke of half-time when he met Marcus Rashford’s cross with a diving header.
Sarri endured chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as furious Chelsea fans showed their frustration at the club’s fifth defeat in their last 10 games.
Chelsea’s stars, publicly criticized by their manager on several occasions this term, hardly looked to be battling to keep the Italian as they failed to muster a shot on target after the 11th minute.
Sarri’s fragile relationship with his players, combined with the mutinous atmosphere among supporters, increased the feeling that the former Napoli boss might not survive until the end of his first season with Chelsea.
Demanding Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has acted quickly in the past when managers have been perceived to have lost the support of the squad.
But Sarri is adamant he isn’t concerned about his perilous position and he claimed he is solely focused on salvaging his club’s turbulent season.
Asked if he was worried Abramovich might be ready to wield the axe, Sarri said: “It’s not my problem.
“I was only worried about my position when I was in League 2 in Italy, not now.
“I am worried about the results, not about the fans. Of course I can understand the situation.
“I can understand our fans, because the result wasn’t really good. We are out of the FA Cup.”
Following widespread reports that Sarri’s players are underwhelmed by his stubborn refusal to change his tactics, the 60-year-old did make the alarming admission that he wasn’t certain he still had their backing.
“Of course I’m not sure, but I think so. I think the situation with the players is very good in terms of our relationship but that’s not so important,” he said.
“What’s important is to play and get good results.”
Chelsea supporters called for their club’s former legend Frank Lampard, now in charge at Derby, to be hired and directed foul-mouthed abuse at Sarri.
“Not really very well, but sometimes yes. For everything there is the first time,” he said when quizzed on if he heard the taunts from his own fans.
Sarri believes his situation will be improved significantly if Chelsea can string together a winning run, starting with Thursday’s Europa League last 32 second leg against Malmo and the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.
“It’s really very easy. If we are able to win three or four matches in a row, it will be easy. Of course it’s difficult to win five matches in a row,” he said with a curious smirk that suggested he didn’t really believe his own outward optimism.
“We need of course more aggression, more determination in the situation inside our box and inside the opposing box.
“My job is to work with my players to try and improve in a few days because we conceded the second goal without determination or aggression.
“The difference was there. We played 78 balls in the opposing box and United only 16 balls our box. We are supposed to win.”
Having previously questioned whether his players understood his football philosophy, Sarri repeated that complaint.
“Not completely at the moment because, especially in a situation like the second half, we have to move the ball faster mentally and materially,” he said.
“We need more movements without the ball and less individual actions.”