NATIONAL

Kim Yo-jong shadows brother Jong-un on Hanoi summit trip

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Feb 27, 2019 - 14:40
  • Updated : Feb 27, 2019 - 14:40

HANOI, Vietnam -- While every movement of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is being watched by the world, his sister’s close assistance has caught the public‘s attention. As one of the most powerful figures in North Korea, Yo-jong stands next to her brother in all engagements and has been spotted inspecting the summit venue and holding an ashtray for her brother.

When the North Korean leader departed Pyongyang for Hanoi on Saturday afternoon for his second summit with US President Donald Trump, Yo-jong stood next to her brother. 

Kim Yo-jong holds ashtray for her brother at Nanning Station in China, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

She was also spotted carefully assisting Kim as he took a smoking break before arriving in Vietnam. A habitual smoker, Kim was spotted smoking at Nanning Station in China in footage taken by Japanese TBS TV. There, Yo-jong stood next to her brother and held the ashtray.

At Dong Dang Station in Vietnam and at the North Korean Embassy in Hanoi on Tuesday, Yo-jong showed up first before her brother and checked the environs.

On Tuesday evening, Yo-jong also inspected the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, where Trump and Kim are expected to hold the summit.

On her close assistance and “odd jobs,” experts say it stresses her position as an important figure for the North Korean regime. She is director of the propaganda and agitation department of the Workers‘ Party of Korea. 

Kim Yo-jong (Yonhap)

Former South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun also said her holding the ashtray was “normal.”

“It is more natural for Kim’s sister to hold the ashtray than for others to do it. If it was another person, it could be interpreted as trying to flatter the leader,” Jeong said in a radio interview Wednesday.

Pundits say it is very important for the North to limit access to anything that could possibly reveal information about Kim’s health, and that collecting the cigarette butts is an important task. According to sources, North Korea is making sure to collect everything that Kim has used, such as tissues and towels. Kim is also said to bring along his own toilet when he travels.

By Jo He-rim The Korea Herald Correspondent (herim@heraldcorp.com)