Donald Trump Does What Mike Pence Refused to Do With Kim Jong Un's Sister

The White House released an official photo of President Donald Trump shaking hands with Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Friday. The handshake, which took place during the Singapore summit this week, marks a significant departure from Vice President Mike Pence’s avoidance of the dignitary at the Winter Olympics earlier this year.

Kim Yo Jong, who works as the deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers' Party, scored a diplomatic win for the rogue state with her appearance at the South Korean winter games in February. There Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in with a handshake and warm greeting. She also extended an invitation from her brother that led to the two dignitaries’ historic meeting last month.  

At the time, CNN wrote that “If ‘diplomatic dance’ were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un's younger sister would be favored to win gold.”

Still, Pence took great action to avoid a confrontation with Kim during the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang. “I didn’t avoid the dictator’s sister, but I did ignore her,” Pence later said at an Axios talk. “I didn’t believe it was proper for the United States of America to give any countenance or attention in that forum to someone who’s not merely the sister of the dictator but is the leader of the propaganda effort.”

Pence explained that the Kim family had committed acts of “evil the likes of which we have witnessed rarely in our time around the world.” The vice president focused on the human rights abuses in North Korea that Trump has decided to ignore for now. “We will continue to hold them to account on their appalling record of abuse of human rights of their own people,” he said at the time.

Kim Yo Jong, 30, is thought to be the most powerful woman in North Korea, and a close and trusted adviser to her brother. Her status is so high that she reportedly briefly took over running the government while her brother was ill in 2014.

She was present at the summit between South and North Korea and played a significant role in the most recent Singaporean negotiations with President Trump. She is believed to be in charge of maintaining her brother’s public image. Kim also accompanied her brother and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, on a trip to China in March.

Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong share a mother and father and are close in age. As children, they studied abroad together in Switzerland.