Kim’s sister back in public eye at North Korea’s mass games

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The powerful younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended a public event in Pyongyang for the first time in more than 50 days, casting further doubt on media speculation he had ordered her to lay low over the failed nuclear summit with Washington.

North Korea’s state media on Tuesday showed Kim Yo Jong clapping aside her brother, his wife and other top officials at the 150,000-seat May Day Stadium where thousands of gymnasts, dancers and flip-card-wielding spectators worked in precise unison to perform “The Land of the People.”

The official Korean Central News Agency said Kim Jong Un was unhappy about Monday’s performance and had seriously criticized the creators for their “wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude” and set forth “important tasks” to correctly implement the country’s revolutionary policy on literature and art.

State media often reports on Kim scolding factory officials, educators and others perceived as not performing to his standards. The mass games events were once routine in North Korea but were on hiatus for several years during the mourning for Kim’s father and only returned last year.

Kim Yo Jong is a senior official of North Korea’s ruling party and is believed to be her brother’s closest confidant. She had accompanied him to his summits with President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and had joined other dignitaries in the stands at last year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. North Korean media had last shown her at a meeting of the North’s rubber-stamp parliament in April.

South Korea’s conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper last week cited an unidentified source to report that Kim Jong Un had ordered his sister to lay low following the collapse of his summit with Trump in February over mismatched demands in sanctions relief and nuclear disarmament. The newspaper had also reported Kim had punished his former top nuclear envoy, Kim Yong Chol, who North Korean media showed at the mass games and at a weekend concert of military wives.

South Korea’s government and media have a mixed record on tracking developments among North Korea’s ruling elite, made difficult by Pyongyang’s stringent control of information about them.

In this Monday, June 3, 2019, photo provided on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, waves with his wife Ri Sol Ju, center left, during the grand gymnastics and artistic performance at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. The woman next to Ri Sol Ju appears to be Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who state media said attended the performance. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
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