Kim Jong Un’s younger sister will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea Friday — a showpiece event also being attended by Vice President Mike Pence.
Seoul announced Wednesday that Kim Yo Jong – the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong Il – would make the trip, the first trip south of the border by a member of North Korea’s ruling dynasty.
Pence is being sent to represent the U.S. at the ceremony to prevent Pyongyang turning the event into a propaganda coup.
Kim’s 30-year-old sister will join a high-level delegation that includes Kim Yong Nam, president of North Korea's parliament.
A spokesman for South Korea’s presidential Blue House, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters Wednesday that Kim’s attendance showed “the North’s resolve to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula.”
North and South Korea will march under one flag at the opening ceremony, in a symbolic show of unity.
Kim Yo Jong is said to be extremely close to her brother and has taken an increasingly prominent role in the regime in recent years. She is a member of the country’s politburo, the regime’s top-level decision-making body, and holds office as vice director of the party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.
She was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury last year for human rights abuses and censorship.
Washington is sending its own delegation, led by Pence, which will be looking to keep up its campaign of pressure against the regime and block any attempts by the North to leverage its presence. The delegation will include the father of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was held by North Korea for more than a year and died shortly after being released to the U.S. in a coma.
“We're traveling to the Olympics to make sure that North Korea doesn't use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime,” Pence recently told reporters.
He also said the U.S. was preparing to announce new economic sanctions he described as the “toughest and most aggressive” yet against North Korea.
Cover image: Photo taken on May 10, 2016, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, watching a parade in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. (Kyodo News via Getty Images)