At the Olympics, North Korea executed a propaganda coup

Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un, is seated near US vice president Mike Pence.
Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un, is seated near US vice president Mike Pence.
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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Thanks to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, North Korea has a new opportunity to perpetuate its propaganda on a global scale.

The repressive authoritarian state brought over almost 500 North Koreans to South Korea for the Winter Olympics. It’s such a diplomatic high point for both North and South Korea that the younger sister of Kim Jong-un landed on South Korean soil—the first member of ruling family to visit since the Korean war.

North Korea boycotted the 1988 games in South Korea. And while the country has participated in global sporting events elsewhere, including the Olympics, this is its first showing in eight years, after a year of numerous missile tests that put the rest of the world on edge.

Nevertheless, the Olympics have welcomed North Korea with open arms. At the opening ceremony, pariah state’s leader’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, sat just meters away from US vice-president Mike Pence. North and South Korea’s delegations marched together under the unified Korean flag.

All this allows Pyongyang to pretend that everything is OK back home. But the United Nations as well as  NGO Human Rights Watch has detailed how the North Korean government routinely conducts gross human rights violations, such as enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, and forced abortion on its people.

Meanwhile, to keep people back home from comparing their quality of life to that of the rest of the world, the hermit state has blocked citizens from watching the Olympic festivities.

North Korea is also keen to make sure that there is no opportunity for defection at the Olympics, either. Athletes, officials, performers, and reporters visiting South Korea will be surrounded by vetted members of North Korea’s elite, who will act as minders and informants.

Read more: The Olympics are a mass propaganda tool for countries to assimilate their citizens