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Distance between Pres. Moon and Kim Yo Jong

Posted February. 13, 2018 07:56,   

Updated February. 13, 2018 07:56


The seating arrangements of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Yo Jong, the deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, who visited South Korea as a special envoy, were brought closer each day during her stay in the South. Pundits opine that the South Korean government made such arrangements intentionally to minimize emotional resistance of the public against the Kim Il Sung family’s first visit to South Korea.

President Moon and Kim Yo Jong met for the first time last Friday at the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Behind the president were sitting his interpreter, Kim Yong Nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Kim Yo Jong. It was difficult for President Moon to have conversations with Kim Yo Jong in such seating arrangements.

Things looked quite different the next day, however, when they went to watch the game of the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team after a luncheon at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. President Moon was seen sitting along with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong. With Bach taking the “middle space” between them, President Moon was seen exchanging conversation with Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong directly many times. On Sunday evening, President Moon and Kim Yo Jong were seated next to each other when they visited the National Theater of Korea for the North Korean art troupe Samjiyon Orchestra’s performance.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence rejected such “intentional” seating arrangements. Seated face-to-face with Kim Yong Nam at the opening reception, Vice President Pence left merely in five minutes. During the opening ceremony, the U.S. vice president switched seats with his wife, keeping Kim Yo Jong at arm’s length, and sat next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instead. While succeeding in painting a “picture” of thawing inter-Korean tensions, Cheong Wa Dae, which grappled with seating arrangements of the U.S. and North Korean delegations to the last minute, failed to choreograph a détente between Washington and Pyongyang.

In-Chan Hwang hic@donga.com