Kirk Kovach | University of North Carolina
The Olympics kicked off this week, with representatives from across the globe. One particular attendee of the games has sparked intrigue and outrage online. Kim Yo-jong is the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. and her presence has piqued the interest of the media.
Between the New York Times and the Washington Post, conservatives have had their hands full in criticizing the takes. The NYT headline reads “Kim Jong-un’s Sister Turns on the Charm, Taking Pence’s Spotlight.” Well, of course, she did. Had anyone even heard of her before this week? The only thing I knew about Kim Jong-un’s siblings was that he had his brother murdered. The sister is a new revelation for me.
But, alas, we are spiraling into the new and inescapable narrative that the Trump presidency dictates: opponents of the president overcorrect in their opposition. Examples abound of Twitter users, for example, heaping praise or at least identifying in some way with the sister of the tyrant.
Washington Post offered a glowing review, citing her “sphinxlike smile” and quoting South Koreans who mentioned the good impression she made at the Olympics. But isn’t that what she was there for? The mystique of the North Korean regime comes in part from the fact that they are so demonized. Few people have access to the hermit kingdom, and even those who do are often shown a whitewashed version.
Lester Holt fell into that trap during his visit to the country a few weeks ago. Holt was criticized in the U.S. for his incredulity at the wonderful ski resort he visited. The North Koreans offered him a glimpse into the idyllic vacation spot, though neglecting to emphasize its existence as a mere tool of propaganda.
Kim Yo-jong is the personification of this propaganda effort. Her place at the Olympics in South Korea is to humanize the regime, an operation which seems to be gaining traction. While Pence echoes the American line of increased sanctions, she offers an olive branch and an invitation to the South Korean president to have talks in the North.
This episode is just part of a larger issue born out of the reaction to the Trump presidency. Opponents of the president bend themselves into such odd positions in the name of disdain only. Do they really enjoy the subversive efforts of the dictator’s sister? It is a sad time indeed for the country when fawning over a murderous regime in protest of our own leaders is in vogue.