When Kim Jong-un’s 30-year-old sister landed in Seoul to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics, says Sung-Yoon Lee in The Daily Telegraph, she was the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to set foot on South Korean soil since her grandfather’s invasion 70 years earlier. Though Kim Yo-jong refused interviews, ignored US Vice President Mike Pence and frequently looked down her nose at her South Korean hosts, the world was enthralled. Commentators unpicked every detail, from her plain black outfits to the flower-shaped clip that held back her hair. One day, she wore make up – “positive news”, declared one “expert”. When she told a 90-year-old colleague to sit down, another commentator gushed that she was “not only pretty but also polite”.
All this Western projection was, of course, nonsense. At home in North Korea, Kim Yo-jong has earned the nicknames “bloodthirsty demon” and “devil woman”. Doted on from an early age as her parents’ youngest child, the girl known as “sweet princess Yo-jong” is said to have ordered the executions of several high-ranking functionaries simply for “getting on her nerves”. Others have been banished with their families to gulags for a life of “forced labour, beatings, torture and starvation rations”. And when she took over the country’s propaganda office, its messaging took a dark turn: the Korean Central News Agency began comparing Barack Obama to a monkey, and called South Korea’s first female leader a “dirty old prostitute”. Today, aged 35, she is the only person who has the complete trust of her “nuclear-button-controlling brother”.