Swanson: People Who are Glorifying Kim Jung-un’s Sister are Victims of Propaganda

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By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang made history by reintroducing the unified Korean team that made its Olympic debut in Sydney, 2000. It’s always exciting to see the vast political divides between the broken nations being able to come together as a united people, even if it’s just for a sporting event. That being said, the North Korean presence in Pyeongchang has been incredible. The media has gone bananas over the North Korean cheerleading squad that has been in attendance at some of the more popular events like the hockey games. Over the weekend, South Korean and international journalists all clamored to promote the sister of dictator-for-life Kim Jung-un for stealing the show at the games. She is the topic of this article, and her name is Kim Yo-jong.

She is the Director of the Department of Propaganda and Agitation in North Korea. It is her job to manipulate the public image of the regime she serves so that it is perceived in a more favorable light than the one it actually dwells in. Judging by the coverage she has been getting from the media over the opening weekend, aside from a few outspoken skeptics, it seems she has done her job. American publications have even made the effort to push for the nickname of the Ivanka Trump of North Korea. The normalization of Kim Yo-jong in this manner is incredibly troubling.

South Korea has become enamored with her. Beauty and glamour are very important in Seoul and the rest of South Korea, in contrast to the very clean and uniform appearance of Pyongyang. That’s why Kim Yo-jong has been so widely embraced, she proves as an interesting figure who seems oddly South Korean in the way she dresses and smiles. But it should be obvious by this point that this is simply part of her propaganda campaign.

If Kim Yo-jong is any good at her job, she knows that the world perceives her nation as the black sheep of the international community — that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a backward and disconnected utilitarian dictatorship that exploits its citizens and has a reputation of being run by psychotic sociopaths. So, as the head of propaganda, how does she attempt to change that image? By being that face of normalcy, and by becoming that relatable link between North Korea and the rest of the world, specifically South Korea. It makes it easy to draw our attention to her and away from the troubled history that she comes from.

Kim Yo-jong is not some figure that symbolizes any change that is going on in North Korea indicating modernization. She is just the face of a propaganda campaign that intends to hide the human rights violations that the regime commits every day behind a veil. North Korea still runs gulags, still starves their citizens and still brainwashes their children so that they cannot function in a world that is not North Korea. When we normalize her and compare her to the figures in our politics we normalize a regime that actively abuses their citizens. As someone of Korean descent, I’m always excited to see the bond between the two nations grow closer to unification, but not at the expense of masking and forgetting all of the atrocities that the Kim regime has committed against the Korean people.