Kim Jong Un’s sister begins unprecedented South Korea visit for Winter Olympics
Kim Jong Un’s sister begins unprecedented South Korea visit for 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.
Big Man United fan MS Dhoni delves into Fergie time for Super Kings
- Chennai pull off yet another act of escapology
- Faf du Plessis whacks 46 off his last 18 balls to see off Sunrisers
92:48. If you are a Real Madrid fan, those numbers are emblazoned in the memory in the same way that they are tattooed on Sergio Ramos’s arm.
His equaliser deep into stoppage time in the 2014 Champions League final, against bitter rivals Atletico Madrid, paved the way for the Decima and Real’s subsequent dominance of club football’s premier competition.
But more than a decade before Ramos, there was Fergie time and the latest of late goals. With six games to go in the inaugural English Premier League season (1992-93), Manchester United, who had not won the title since 1966-67, trailed Aston Villa by a point. Villa were managed by Ron Atkinson, Sir Alex Ferguson’s predecessor at Old Trafford, and a 0-0 draw at home to Coventry City was undoubtedly a setback for their hopes.
But at Old Trafford, United, who had lost out to Leeds United a season earlier, were in worse shape. Sheffield Wednesday scored first and though Steve Bruce equalised in the 86th minute, Wednesday stubbornly warded off further danger. In the 96th minute, it was Bruce again — the yeoman in a team of cavaliers — whose bullet header sealed all three points. United would win all their remaining games as Villa fell apart, and Ferguson would finish his career with 13 championships.
Six years later, Fergie time came into play even more memorably at the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Played off the park for long periods by Bayern Munich, United won the Champions League with two goals in injury time. There are few more iconic images of 20th century sport than that of Sammy Kuffour hammering his fist into the ground in disbelief.
MS Dhoni, a big United fan, was an unknown teenager hoping for his big break in eastern India when that happened. And in the years that followed, he took Fergie time and added his own unique touch to it. This season, Chennai Super Kings have taken Dhoni time to new, ridiculous levels, “winning games we had no business winning”, to quote Stephen Fleming, the coach.
In the tournament opener in Mumbai, their first game back after two years in exile, Chennai were down for the count at 105 for seven, needing another 61 from 31 balls. But Dwayne Bravo (68 from 30 balls) and a hamstrung Kedar Jadhav (24 off 22) smashed and grabbed a one-wicket win off the penultimate ball.
In their very next outing, Sam Billings thumped 56 from 23 as they scaled down a mammoth 203-run target with a ball to spare. In Bangalore a fortnight later, it was the main man himself, Dhoni, clubbing 70 from 34 as Chennai chased down 206 in 19.4 overs. And in the final game of the league phase, they recovered from 58 for four to beat Kings XI Punjab with five balls to spare. This time, Dhoni flummoxed his opponents and those watching by sending Harbhajan Singh and Deepak Chahar to bat before he came in to finish the job.
The qualifier against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Mumbai on Tuesday night was another story. Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu, both in such prolific form this season, fell without scoring in pursuit of 140, and Dhoni eked out just nine before he was cleaned up by a Rashid Khan googly. At 62 for six in the 13th over, most Chennai fans were just thankful they would get another opportunity to make the final. No one was thinking of Dhoni time.
Faf du Plessis did. Having not had much game time this season, du Plessis, in the XI in place of the injured Billings, scored just 21 off the first 24 balls he faced. Then, with wickets having tumbled around him, he opened up those middleweight-boxer shoulders. The next 18 balls he faced went for 46 as Chennai won with five balls remaining. As Dhoni had in the World Cup final at the same venue seven years earlier, du Plessis finished it off with a straight six.
There was much skepticism of Chennai’s auction recruitment, with the emphasis on signing very experienced hands, and it has been the decision to trust in the youthful pace of Lungi Ngidi that has helped transform their season. With so many having chipped in with match-winning displays, they may not even need Dhoni time in the final. Just do not rule out the possibility of the Fergie fan leaving it to the last, if only to troll us all.