Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Kim Jong-un's sister spotted at North Korea's mass games

Korean media speculated that Kim Yo-jong was ordered by her brother to lay low after the failed US nuclear summit

The powerful younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a gymnastics performance in Pyongyang, casting further doubt on media speculation he had ordered her to keep a low profile over the failed nuclear summit with Washington.

North Korea’s state media on Tuesday showed Kim Yo-jong clapping beside her brother, his wife and other top officials at the 150,000-seat May Day Stadium where thousands of gymnasts, dancers and spectators wielding coloured cards worked in unison to perform a propaganda display.

Before this event, she had not been seen by the media for more than 50 days.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said the performers showed “beautiful and graceful rhythmic movements, high-spirited gymnastics, interesting national emotion and rich artistic depiction”.

But it also reported that Mr Kim was unhappy with the display. He seriously criticised its organisers for their “wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude” and set forth “important tasks” to correctly carry out the country’s revolutionary policy on literature and art, the agency said.

State media often report on Mr Kim’s criticism of factory officials, educators and others perceived as not performing to his standards. The mass games events were once routine in North Korea but were put on hold for several years during the mourning period for Mr Kim’s father and only resumed last year.

Ms Kim is a senior official of North Korea’s ruling party. She accompanied her brother to his summits with US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and joined dignitaries at last year’s Winter Olympics.

But speculations about her status grew after she was left out from her brother's trip to Vladivostok, Russia, in April for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. North Korean media had last shown her at a meeting of the parliament on April 12.

South Korea's conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper last week cited an unidentified source to report that Mr Kim had ordered his sister to keep a low profile following the collapse of his summit with Trump in February. The newspaper had also reported Mr Kim had punished his former top nuclear envoy, Kim Yong-chol, who North Korean media showed at the mass games.

Senior envoy Kim Hyok-chol, who the Chosun Ilbo reported was executed along with four officials for betrayal, has not been seen since the end of Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Although North Korea has previously banished or executed scapegoats to atone for political flops, experts said such extreme punishments were unlikely unless Mr Kim was abandoning negotiations with the US.

Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst, said Ms Kim would not have been seen at April’s meeting had she been disciplined.

Mr Cheong said it was more likely she was reappearing after a period of rest.

Updated: June 4, 2019 04:55 PM

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