Kim Jong-un’s Sister Sits 1 Row Behind Mike Pence as ‘the Peace Olympics’ Begin in Thaw of Bitter Relations

Diplomatic progress? Kim Jong-Un’s sister Kim Yo-Jong is seen sitting just feet away from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen during the opening ceremony

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s sister was seen enjoying the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea sitting right behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence was in no mood to trifle, however: He told the ‘Today’ show that while America is pushing the pause button on military action in the region, President Donald Trump is prepared to defend the United States while Olympic medals are being passed out.

Kim Yo Jong had taken her seat just feet away from the Vice President, behind his wife Karen Pence, after shaking the hand of South Korean President Moon Jae-in as they entered the stadium for the event.

A White House official says Pence and Kim Yo Jong did not interact despite being seated just feet apart.

The vice president and his wife also noticeably remained seated while everyone around them got to their feet to applaud the moment both North and South Korea teams walked into the stadium together. A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Pence stood only for the U.S. team.

‘The peace Olympics’: Kim Yo-Jong was seated next to North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, behind South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, and Vice President and Mrs Pence
Honouring: The VIP section of the South Korean, North Korean and American leaders stand for the national anthem
Warming up: As the ceremony went on – in temperatures around -3C – Ms Kim put on a fur hat to keep the cold out
Seated: Pence and his wife remained noticably seated while everyone else in the box applauded. White House official says Pence stood only for the U.S. team, despite other people in the box standing and applauding when athletes from the two Koreas walked in together

Despite heightened tensions between the Koreas in recent years, the two countries decided to use the Olympics as a moment to celebrate peace and what unites the two countries. Athletes from North and South paraded together for the first time in 11 years, flying their flag which was white with the blue Korean peninsula in the middle. The last time they marched together was the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Kim Yo Jong was among the many who applauded the moment from the stands. Kim Jong Un’s younger sister is part of a high-level diplomatic delegation led by the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, and she is the first member of Pyongyang’s ruling dynasty to set foot in the country since the Korean War more than 60 years ago.

‘President Trump and our allies in the region have agreed to delay our military exercises until after the Olympics,’ Pence told NBC anchor Lester Holt. ‘And President Moon has appreciated that.’

Making friends: Ms Kim is seen shaking hands with President Moon Jae-in ahead of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Political princess: Kim Yo-jong, believed to be about 30 years old, is the younger sister of the North Korean dictator

‘But we’re going to make it crystal clear that our military, the Japanese self-defense forces, our allies here in South Korea, all of our allies here across the region, are fully prepared to defend our nations and to take what action is necessary to defend our homeland.’

Pence later visited the USA House at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games where he met with United States Olympic Committee officials and athletes including Olympian Katie Uhlaender.

Kim Yong Nam was earlier seen meeting with President Moon, the two leaders shaking hands ahead of the opening ceremony.

He had also reportedly met with Pence on Thursday night when the Vice President stopped by a formal dinner which he ended up not joining.

Vice President Pence, Mr. Kim and President Moon had reportedly been due to share a table at the dinner, but Pence arrived late, ‘exchanged greetings with those seated at the head table, and left without sitting down’, a spokesperson for the South Korean president’s office said.

This despite the fact that a top North Korea Foreign Ministry official had ruled out meeting with any representatives from the United States.

‘We have no intention to meet with the U.S. side during the stay in South Korea,’ the official was quoted as saying.

‘We are not going to use such a sports festival as the Winter Olympics as a political lever. There is no need to do so.’

President Moon has pushed the Games as a ‘peace Olympics’ that will open a door for dialogue to alleviate tensions on the peninsula and seek to persuade Pyongyang to give up its atomic ambitions.

The ceremony itself was also a symbolic quest to find peace, with a spectacular display featured child performers, huge puppets, dazzling light displays and thousands of dancers in a celebration of Korean unity.

Inside the area 30,000 people, including a 200-strong North Korean cheerleading squad, watched the display in -3C temperatures, and were encouraged to bang drums given to them in an extreme weather kit to keep warm.

The Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang kicked off with a bang on Friday as both North and South joined together to put on a display of peace and unity
Inside the area 30,000 people, including a 200-strong North Korean cheerleading squad, watched the display
Fireworks light up the night sky around the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium as the opening ceremony enters full swing
Dancers and puppeteers take part in the opening ceremony, which is taking place in temperatures of -3C
Spectacle: The opening show featured thousands of dancers wearing traditional Korean costumes
Dancers and puppeteers take part in the opening ceremony, which is taking place in temperatures of -3C
Dozens of huge and bizarre puppets, representing mythological figures from Korea, featured in the display
Drummers were part of the mesmerizing display that finished as the parade of nations began
Projections were also cast on to the ice to tell the second section of the story, entitled Land of Peace, which sees unity and order brought to a chaotic universe

As the teams paraded around the stadium their national flags were displayed in the center of the stage, while lights behind each seat lit up with the national colours.

In line with President Moon’s ‘peace Olympics’ ambitions, there is reportedly a ‘good chance’ that Ms Kim will invite President Moon to Pyongyang during a lunch on Saturday, CNN reports.

Sources told CNN that the potential visit would be ‘sometime this year’, and if it goes ahead it would be the first visit from a South Korean president in 11 years.

The last member of the Kim family to set foot in Seoul was Yo Jong’s grandfather Kim Il Sung, the North’s founder, after his forces invaded in 1950 and the capital fell.

Three years later the conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula divided by the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, and the two sides technically in a state of war.

Now the North is subject to multiple rounds of UN Security Council sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, while the democratic South has risen to become the world’s 11th-largest economy.

Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong, both of them in dark coats with fur collars, were met by the South’s unification minister and other officials.

Their trip is the diplomatic high point of an Olympics-driven rapprochement between the two Koreas.

Flag bearer Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain and teammates enter the stadum during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Team USA: Erin Hamlin carries the flag of the United States during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics
Athletes from China wave flags during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang
He has won Olympics already: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua leads the Tongan team out into the arena during the ceremony
A member of North Korea’s cheerleader squad waves at the camera from inside the Pyeongchang Olympic stadium
The ceremony closed as four Korean pop stars sang a rendition of John Lenon’s Imagine amid a sea of swaying lights
A torchbearer lit the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea

The delegation was due to take a high-speed train to Pyeongchang, where the Olympics opening ceremony would be held later Friday, and attended by US Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But all eyes are on Ms Kim – a key member of the dictator dynasty that has ruled the impoverished, isolated nation with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult through three generations.

Members of the family are widely revered in the North as ‘Paektu bloodline’, named after the country’s highest mountain and hailed as the supposed birthplace of the late leader Kim Jong Il.

Many analysts suggest Yo Jong may be carrying a personal message from her brother to his dovish South Korean counterpart Moon.

Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with U.S. Olympian Katie Uhlaender at the USA House on the same day as the opening ceremony
Vice President Mike Pence greets guests at the USA House at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 9
Pence met with officials from the United States Olympic Committee including Managing Director of Consumer Products and Licensing, U.S. Olympic Committee Peter Zeytoonjian (left with the Vice President) and Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird (right)
Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen visit with guests at the USA House at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Mike Pence watched the opening ceremony sat just one seat ahead of North Korea’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong (behind him)
A White House official says Pence and Kim Yo Jong did not interact despite being seated just feet apart during the Olympic opening ceremony

Tensions have been high on the peninsula since last year when the North staged its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and test-fired multiple long-range missiles, some of them capable of reaching the US mainland.

Leader Kim and US President Donald Trump exchanged threats of war and personal insults, sparking global alarm and fears of another conflict on the peninsula.

But Kim abruptly announced a plan to send athletes and high-level delegates to the Pyeongchang Winter Games in his new year speech, setting in motion a flurry of cross-border talks and activities.

Kim Jong Un’s sister has landed in the South Korea, becoming the first member of Pyongyang’s ruling dynasty to set foot in its rival since the Korean War
A North Korean delegation led by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong (centre) and president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong Nam (right) leave the Incheon International Airport in South Korea
Kim Yo Jong was surrounded by North Korean special agents as she touched down in the South. The delegation’s trip is the diplomatic high point of an Olympics-driven rapprochement between the two Koreas
North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam (second left) and Kim Yo Jong (centre), headed to a train station upon their arrival at Incheon airport, west of Seoul

The announcement – following months of cajoling by Seoul – is seen as a bid to defuse tensions and try to seek a loosening of the sanctions against it.

Hundreds of athletes, cheerleaders and artistes have already arrived in the South and the North’s state orchestra gave one of two planned concerts in the South on Thursday night to a packed audience.

But the latest rapprochement has met a backlash in the South with many accusing Seoul of making too many concessions to the wayward neighbour that even pushed ahead with a military parade on Thursday in Pyongyang in a showcase of its military might.

The delegation took a high-speed train to Pyeongchang, where the Olympics opening ceremony would be held later Friday, and attended by US Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
A South Korean official welcomed Kim Yo-jong and Kim Young-nam (right), president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly
North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam (second right) and Kim Yo Jong (second left), North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sibling, talk with South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (not pictured)
The last member of the Kim family to set foot in Seoul was Yo Jong’s grandfather Kim Il Sung, the North’s founder, after his forces invaded in 1950 and the capital fell
Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong, both of them in dark coats with fur collars, were met by the South’s unification minister and other officials

Conservative activists also accused Pyongyang of ‘hijacking’ the South’s Winter Olympics and have held angry protests by burning the images of the leader Kim or the North’s national flag near venues where North Koreans made public appearances.

US Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the US delegation to the Olympics, renewed a call for ‘maximum pressure’ on the North to force it abandon its nuclear weapon during a meeting with Moon Thursday.

But he did not rule out a meeting with the North’s delegates during the Games, saying there ‘may be a possibility for any kind of an encounter with North Koreans,’ whether informal or formal.

SOURCE: Daily Mail, Sarah Malm and Amie Gordon