President's Daughter Must Wish She Got the Coverage of North Korea's 'Ivanka Trump'

Ivanka Trump / Getty Images
Ivanka Trump / Getty Images
February 12, 2018

Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jung has become an objection of fascination and praise since her foray into South Korea for the start of the Winter Olympics, getting comparisons to President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump.

That appears to be because they are both women with influence over the heads of state to whom they are related. The similarities end there; while Kim Jo Yung is the sister of a dictator and serves as a director of propaganda for one of the world's worst human rights violators, Ivanka Trump is the daughter of a democratically elected president and has pushed for such issues as paid family leave and an expanded child tax credit.

Despite that, Ivanka Trump may wish she could receive as warm press coverage as her appointed North Korean counterpart has received.

In a piece entitled, "Kim Jong Un's sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics," CNN reported, "With a smile, a handshake and a warm message in South Korea's presidential guest book, Kim Yo Jong has struck a chord with the public just one day into the PyeongChang Games."

"Seen by some as her brother's answer to American first daughter Ivanka Trump, Kim, 30, is not only a powerful member of Kim Jong Un's kitchen cabinet but also a foil to the perception of North Korea as antiquated and militaristic," the report went on.

Reuters wrote Monday of Kim's return to North Korea, "A prim, young woman with a high forehead and hair half swept back quietly gazes at the throngs of people pushing for a glimpse of her, a faint smile on her lips and eyelids low as four bodyguards jostle around her."

The New York Times was also riveted by her smile, writing, "Flashing a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Ms. Kim managed to outflank Mr. Trump’s envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in the game of diplomatic image-making."

The AFP called her a political princess: "Smiling and seemingly unfazed by cameras flashing during the airport meeting, Ms. Kim wore a black coat and matching ankle boots, and carried a black purse."

The BBC reported, "Ms. Kim has been described as having a sweet, good-natured disposition, with a bit of a tomboy streak in her, North Korea leadership expert Michael Madden told the BBC."

The Associated Press noted her confidence and relaxation, as well as how she "politely declined" taking the seat of honor an airport meeting from North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong Nam.

And the Washington Post, in its piece talking about South Korean fascination with Kim, produced a lede fit for a Vanity Fair profile:

They marveled at her barely-there makeup and her lack of bling. They commented on her plain black outfits and simple purse. They noted the flower-shaped clip that kept her hair back in a no-nonsense style.

Here she was, a political princess, but the North Korean "first sister" had none of the hallmarks of power and wealth that Koreans south of the divide have come to expect. In looks-obsessed South Korea, many 20-something women list plastic surgery and brand-name bags as life goals.

Most of all, Kim Yo Jong was an enigma. Just like them, but nothing like them. A woman with a sphinxlike smile who gave nothing away during her three-day Olympic-related visit to South Korea as brother Kim Jong Un’s special envoy.

That she is being sanctioned by the U.S. for her role in censorship and covering for the regime's human rights abuses was treated as an afterthought or outright ignored in these reports.

Coverage of Ivanka Trump in domestic politics has, unsurprisingly, not been as flattering.

The Washington Post's style section last year ran a long feature on Trump that called her "collegial and thoughtful" but also depicted her as "tone-deaf."

"Ivanka, taken out of context, is rarely offensive. But Ivanka is all context — the context of her father. He is why people write about her, dissect her, fret over her. She is playing a flute in an orchestra. He is running around banging a gong in the background, making her look tone-deaf," the authors wrote.

MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle has frequently addressed the camera directly to tell Ivanka Trump to speak out more on progressive issues and condemned her for not matching her rhetoric on behalf of women and girls.

Last year, CBS host Gayle King told Trump she had read articles about her being "complicit in what is happening to the White House," without specifying exactly what that meant, and wondered how she felt about that accusation.

Political commentator Joan Walsh attacked Trump last year on MSNBC for wearing a "girlie" dress while sitting in for her father at a G-20 meeting, fretting she looked like "property" in a scene reminiscent of "authoritarian societies."

Vanity Fair profile last year slammed Trump and her husband, top White House adviser Jared Kushner, as self-important blowhards.

"Kushner and Ivanka will leave the White House at some point. When they do, it will be a welcome development for those who view the pair not merely as Trump’s protectors, as they see themselves to be, but rather as one of his greatest weaknesses," Sarah Ellison wrote.

A frequent target of left-leaning comics, Trump was subjected to a particularly crude bit by HBO's Bill Maher. Playing off the president's previous statement on "The View" about how he might be "dating" Ivanka if she weren't his daughter, Maher mimicked Ivanka performing a sexual act on her father while trying to stop him from bombing Finland.