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Kim Jong Un 'impressed' with South Korea, North Korea state media says

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Kim Jong Un is seen here speaking on New Year's Day Address. (File Photo) Kim Jong Un is seen here speaking on New Year's Day Address. (File Photo)
By Steve George CNN

(CNN) -- North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, has praised South Korea for its "very impressive" and "sincere" efforts in hosting the North's high-level delegation during the opening of the Winter Olympics.

Kim expressed "satisfaction" over the visit, according to state media Tuesday, "expressing thanks" and noting it was important to further the "warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue."

The comments were made following the delegation's return to Pyongyang from a three-day visit to the South, a landmark diplomatic trip that appeared to divide international observers, drawing both scrutiny and praise.

Kim's remarks were carried on the front page of North Korea's state newspaper Rodong Sinmun, accompanied by a prominent image showing Kim flanked lovingly by the four most senior ranking members of the delegation, including his smiling sister who is shown clenching her brother's arm.

"It is important to continue making good results by further livening up the warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue created by the strong desire and common will of the North and the South with the Winter Olympics as a momentum," the North Korean leader said.

Detailed report

Led by Kim's younger sister Kim Yo jong, the high-level delegation attended the opening of the Games, before traveling to Seoul to formally meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the Presidential Palace.

According to state media, the younger Kim provided a detailed report on to her brother on the "activities of the delegation," including the "movement of the US side and others which she grasped through her activities," a potential reference to her frosty near encounter with US Vice President Mike Pence at the Opening Ceremony.

The apparent thaw in North-South relations has not been reflected in Washington, where senior figures, including Pence, have accused Pyongyang of using the Games for propaganda purposes.

Tellingly, there was no mention of the much publicized invitation in state media, delivered via Kim Yo Jong, for Moon to visit Pyongyang "at his earliest convenience."

Moon has yet to accept the offer, replying only that the two countries "should accomplish this by creating the right conditions."

Close confidante

Kim Yo Jong is believed to be the youngest of seven siblings that their father, Kim Jong Il, had with four women. Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong have the same mother, Ko Yong Hui.

Kim Yo Jong was always close to her father, and after returning from Switzerland, she was appointed to positions of responsibility in the government, according to Michael Madden, who runs the blog North Korea Leadership Watch.

She was promoted last year to the country's Politburo, the senior body of North Korea's communist party, as an alternate member. She is a close aide to her brother "and since his accession manages his public events, itineraries and logistical needs, among other tasks," according to North Korea Leadership Watch.

Kim is now among her brother's top 20 officials and is seen as something of a gatekeeper to the leader, the analysts said.

CNN's Stella Ko and Spencer Feingold contributed to this report

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