Smoke signals: Kim Jong Un's sister rushed off her feet on Vietnam trip

Smoke signals: Kim Jong Un's sister rushed off her feet on Vietnam trip

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department director of
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, looks on in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-US summit in Hanoi, Feb 28, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Leah Millis)

HANOI: Ready with an ashtray at a railway station, taking away gifts of flowers and giving directions to staff, Kim Yo Jong has been rushed off her feet as personal secretary to her brother and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

Kim Yo Jong, who holds the title of vice director of the ruling Workers' Party, came to the world's attention at the Winter Olympics in South Korea a year ago, when her big smile and relaxed manner made her a hit with many south of the DMZ.

But it has been non-stop for her on the trip to Hanoi, trailing her brother during his second summit with US President Donald Trump, her hair neatly half swept back in trademark fashion, making sure everything goes like clockwork.

READ: 'Sometimes you have to walk’: Trump says no deal with Kim over sanctions demand

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department director of
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, looks on in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-US summit in Hanoi. (Photo: Reuters/Leah Millis)

Kim Yo Jong, 29, in high heels and black two-piece suit, was ubiquitous even before her brother, a stickler for cleanliness, arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday (Feb 26).

As Kim Jong Un took a cigarette break at a railway station in the southern Chinese city of Nanning, she approached him holding a crystal ashtray in two hands, footage from Japanese broadcaster TBS showed.

After Kim's train rolled into the Vietnamese border station of Dong Dang, Kim Yo Jong was the first person to emerge, alongside protocol chief Kim Chang Son.

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un runs after they arrive at the border t
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un runs after they arrive at the border town with China in Dong Dang, Vietnam, Feb 26, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

She appeared at one point to slightly push aside Kim Yong Chol, the leader's chief nuclear envoy and top aide, as she sprinted from the train towards her brother and took welcome flowers from him.

When Kim Jong Un signed an agreement with Trump after their first summit in Singapore last June, he ditched a pen sterilised by his security officials in favour of one offered by his sister.

"It is most fascinating because we see her discharging technical and hygienic tasks on one hand, but she also has to fulfil certain ceremonial tasks as one of the visiting VIPs," said Michael Madden, a North Korea leadership expert at the Washington-based Stimson Centre's 38 North think tank.

FILE PHOTO - Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, arrives at the Dong Dang railway station, Vietnam, at the border with China, Feb 26, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

The Kims' keenness on cleanliness is rooted in the era of their late father, Kim Jong Il, when immaculateness was key and sanitizers were widely used, Madden said.

Experts also say the use of a personal ashtray or pen in particular is intended to prevent the ruling family's DNA being collected by foreign governments.

"The paranoia about medical intelligence involved Kim Jong Il, so the security units may have continued the policy with his son," Madden said.  

Since her debut on state media in December 2011, Kim Yo Jong has quickly climbed the leadership ladder. She was named as an alternate member of the party's all-powerful politburo in late 2017 as her brother draws his most important people closer to the centre of power.

READ: No agreement reached at Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi: White House

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department director of
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, looks on at the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-US summit in Hanoi. (Photo: Reuters/Leah Millis)

At the Olympics, her every move was scrutinised. Crowds applauded as she stood for the South Korean anthem during the opening ceremony.

But some critics said the aloofness and high-tilted chin spoke of someone who sees herself "above anyone else".

As for the summit, Trump said he and Kim Jong Un had failed to reach agreement on denuclearisation due to North Korean demands to lift punishing US-led sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un look on as Kim's sister
US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un look on as Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong exchanges document with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, Jun 12, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Source: Reuters/zl

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