High stakes

Kim Yo Jong front and center at historic Trump-Kim summit

Kim Yo Jong, the 30-year-old sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, figured prominently in the historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday between President Donald Trump and her older brother. She was seen at her brother’s side on Sentosa Island in Singapore on Tuesday as he sat next to President Donald Trump and signed a joint statement aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Yo Jong helped Kim Jong Un review and sign the joint statement, even providing a precise pen for her brother to use — different from the one a North Korean aide had set out on the table for him — and then seconds later exchanged the signed document with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who handed her a copy of the agreement with Trump’s signature on it.

Kim Yo Jong played a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for the historic meeting earlier this year when she appeared at the Winter Olympics in South Korea — the first time someone from the North had visited the South since 1953 when the Korean War ended in armistice and officially opened the door to high-level talks with the South.

“She’s probably one of the most influential people on Kim Jong Un himself, precisely because he has very few people he can trust,” Balbina Hwang, a visiting professor at Georgetown University and founder of the National Committee on North Korea, told CNN. She is the youngest of seven siblings, but is the only one, apart from her brother, who appears publicly in state media. Nearly three years ago, Kim Jong Un promoted his sister and she has been taking a larger role in higher stakes affairs ever since.

Earlier this year in April, she was among six delegates at the table with her brother in historic meetings with South Korean counterparts that took place in the demilitarized zone. At the meeting, she was seen taking copious notes and trying to avoid the spotlight. But the meeting sprang from her actions as she delivered the letter, during her Olympics visit, to South Korean officials in which Kim Jong Un expressed a desire to open up a dialogue between the two countries, which eventually led to renewed talks with the U.S..

She is among her brother’s top officials and even is believed to have briefly assumed control of the government in 2014 as he struggled with gout and diabetes, according to CNNAs The New York Times reported earlier this year, Kim Yo Jong is often referred to as “Kim Jong Un’s Ivanka.” She was seen arriving in Singapore the night before the big sit-down, and visiting the Marina Bay Sands hotel, but only a few news photos of her emerged.

Of course, Kim Yo Jong is not only woman from North Korea who will be front and center during the summit. Bringing North Koreans news reports on the summit will be the iconic broadcaster Ri Chun-hee. Ri is believed to be 74 years old and has enjoyed an illustrious career working as an anchor for the state-run media and delivering only the biggest of news to North Korean TV viewers. She’s one of the most recognizable people in the country and is known and beloved for her signature delivery — a halting and thunderous style that’s meant to underscore the impact of the very propaganda she is bringing to the public and the world.

Ri officially retired in 2012 — after a notable months-long disappearance from the airwaves the previous year that stirred up national intrigue — but she comes out of retirement for big stories. The bombastic bravado has been on full display in recent years when she delivers news about stories involving actual bombs, like the government’s successful testing of hydrogen and nuclear bombs.

TV viewers in North Korea finally heard from Ri on Monday when she appeared on Korean Central Television and told them that Kim Jong Un had arrived in Singapore — more than a day after his plan had landed. According to The Daily Mail, North Koreans had been told of an upcoming summit meeting weeks ago, but weren’t informed of when and where it would take place.

“The historic first meeting and talks between the respected and beloved Comrade Supreme Leader and Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, will be held on the morning of June 12 in the Republic of Singapore,” Ri, wearing her trademark pink hanbok, said in the six-minute news hit that went on to list the rest of the delegates attending.

Below, watch a highlight of Ri’s broadcast telling viewers about Kim Jong Un’s arrival in SIngapore.

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