Several media outlets expressed their admiration for Kim Yo Jong and her presence at the Winter Olympics over the weekend. Kim, who the media have been referring to as “the Ivanka Trump of North Korea,” is the sister and trusted advisor to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
CNN tweeted “Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.” The tweet included an article that mentioned Kim Yo Jong’s smile and the “warm message” she wrote in South Korea's presidential guest book, as well as her “diplomatic” nature.
“If ‘diplomatic dance’ were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un's younger sister would be favored to win gold,” reported CNN.
The Guardian decided to use a story about North Korea as their chance to cast Vice President Pence in a negative light. “Pence skips Olympics dinner in snub to North Korean officials,” read The Guardian’s headline.
The New York Times also took a shot at the vice president while praising Kim Yo Jong, tweeting, “Without a word, only flashing smiles, Kim Jong Un’s sister outflanked Vice President Mike Pence in diplomacy.”
ThinkProgress chimed in as well, tweeting, “Despite Mike Pence’s sabotage, North Korea’s ‘charm offensive’ appears to be working.”
Pence is attending the Olympics with his guests, Fred and Cindy Warmbier. Their son, Otto Warmbier, fell into a coma while incarcerated in North Korea. He never regained consciousness, and died in June 2017.
While media outlets fawn over Kim Yo Jong with headlines and news articles disturbingly similar to North Korean state-run propaganda, here are some facts to remember about the communist state.
North Korea is one of the most oppressive, authoritarian countries on earth. Its government goes to great lengths to keep citizens isolated from the rest of the world, with state-run media outlets and limited Internet access to only state-approved government websites.
Prohibited from traveling
North Koreans are not allowed to leave the country, unless they are given permission from the state for situations such as participation in world sporting events. While on furlough, athletes have tried to defect, while others have returned home only to be subjected to torture and public ridicule for losing.
Three generations of punishment
North Korea has a “three generations of punishment” policy. This means that if someone is charged with a crime and sent to a prison camp, their children and grandchildren will also be sent there. North Koreans may even be born in prison camps and spend their entire lives in them. Prisoners are forced into slave labor in gulags as brutal as Nazi concentration camps, according to a Holocaust survivor.
There is no individual liberty in North Korea. There is no free speech. It is a crime to criticize the North Korean government, and it is mandated that citizens idolize their leader, Kim Jong Un. It’s also a crime to watch Hollywood movies, make international phone calls, and even choose your own hairstyle. There are only 28 government-approved hairstyles in North Korea.
Barbaric public executions
Kim Jong Un has repeatedly used anti-aircraft guns — weapons designed to take down enemy fighter jets — as methods of execution, which he publicly broadcasts. He has even executed his defense chief with an anti-aircraft gun for falling asleep during a meeting. Falling asleep while the dictator is talking is considered very disrespectful, and is punishable by death.
Famine and cannibalism
Widespread famine has been so severe in North Korea that some people have even turned to cannibalism. According to defectors, after running out of pets and crickets to eat, starving North Koreans have been known to search for homeless children begging in the streets. Famine and malnutrition is still a big problem in North Korea today.
Kim Jong Un sends his officials to schools to search for the “prettiest” girls to bring back to him. The North Korean dictator then uses the teenage girls as sex slaves, and forces them to feed him caviar. According to an escapee, girls who do not comply with Kim’s demands will just “disappear.”
Kim Jong Un’s sister — who the media have been admiring — is the director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea. She is the driving force behind the North Korean propaganda that promotes her brother as a good person and a heroic leader.
So maybe a little less admiration, and a little more backstory about Kim Yo Jong.
Alana Mastrangelo (@ARmastrangelo) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a political activist and writer.
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