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.
‘Nothing is impossible’ for Xherdan Shaqiri, says Liverpool able to ‘beat anyone’
- Swiss international made the move from relegated Stoke City to Liverpool this summer
- Kosovo-born player believes Reds can match the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona
LONDON: Liverpool’s new summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri has said that “nothing is impossible” and that the Merseyside club can beat “anyone in the world.”
The Swiss international made the move to Anfield fresh off the back of his country’s elimination from the World Cup in Russia, as part of Jurgen Klopp’s extensive spending spree to strengthen his side ahead of the new season. And Shaqiri believes the Reds can overhaul Manchester City come the end of the season.
“For me, nothing is impossible,” Shaqiri told the UK’s Guardian in a recent interview.
“We can be everything we want to be. We beat Manchester City in the league and the Champions League last season so I think we can beat anyone in the world.
“We want to compete with the biggest teams like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona … they are the best teams in the world and Liverpool is also one of them,” said Shaqiri, who came on as a substitute for Liverpool in their 4-0 victory against West Ham in their first Premier League game of the season on Sunday.
“It has to be our ambition to compete with the best and to go on the field against whoever we play trying to win the game and dominate the game. Our aim is to win as many titles as possible. That is the goal of the club now and we are looking forward to the season,” he added.
The Kosovo-born player, who has won three Swiss Super League titles with FC Basel and two Bundesligas with Bayern Munich, believes Liverpool have the quality to match their ambition of claiming their first English top flight crown since 1990.
He explains: “I came here to try to win titles. I think this club needs to have this ambition to win titles, to play for titles, and to be one of the best teams in the world. It is one of the best clubs in the world and so now we try to show that on the pitch.
And Shaqiri has been impressed with his new club and teammates.
“This is my fourth year in the Premier League now, so I know how they play and how good they are. I saw them many times. I know the quality of this team and you can see it on the pitch that I have started working well with them and passing well with them.
“I think we have a big team with a lot of quality that can win every game. That has to be our goal this season – to focus on every game and not think about what can happen in the winter or next summer. We have to try and win every game because all of them are important. Our goal is to try and win every game.”
The Swiss enforcer was also full of praise for his new boss Klopp when asked the impact the German has had on the club since he arrived from Borussia Dortmund.
“I think when Jürgen arrived here the club was totally different to what it is now,” he says. “He has done a very good job since he’s been here and you can see that the people have a lot of respect for him and his work. The progress of this club and this team is getting higher every year.
“Everybody is very focused on that and with the transfers the manager did you can see that he wants to go forward and to make more progress. He wants to compete with the best teams in the world and he is going in the right way.”