Vice President Pence led the United States delegation at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, but it was Ivanka Trump who was present for the closing ceremonies. The president's daughter is in South Korea to celebrate the end of the of the 23rd Winter Games. Given the frigid temperatures that have dominated much of these Games, it's no surprise that Ivanka Trump's outfit at the closing ceremony included a thick winter jacket.
Seated in the arena, Trump wore a red, white, and blue jacket over a dark blue dress. She sat next to South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who was wearing a similar thick white jacket. Behind the two of them sat North Korean delegate Kim Yong Chol, who did not appear to interact with Ivanka during the ceremony itself.
Tensions had been high during the opening ceremonies. Pence was seated within arm distance of Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Historically, the United States has been opposed to the strict totalitarian regime of North Korea, which experts say is for massive human rights violations, including the imprisonment of hundred of thousands of mostly political prisoners — including children.
Recent events have highlighted the stand-off between North Korea and the United States. In early January, the president tweeted that his nuclear button was "much bigger" than Kim's, following several missile tests conducted by the North Korean leader.
There's also the issue of what some see as a thaw in previously icy relations between North and South Korea. As a staunch and longtime ally of the United States, any move by South Korea to appease the North Korean government could complicate U.S. diplomatic relationships.
Some see the decision to send Ivanka Trump to PyeongChang as a direct response to the presence of Kim Yo Jong at the beginning of the games. For better or worse, the two have been compared internationally. (South Korean media all but guaranteed this by dubbing Kim Yo Jong "North Korea's 'Ivanka'".)
Both women are in their 30s, though the exact age of Kim Yo Jong has not been verified. And both women present themselves in a way that softens the image of the powerful men they're associated with.
Most observers of Kim Yo Jong's visit to South Korea — marking the first time any member of the ruling Kim family had set foot in the country since the two split — labeled her trip a huge success. She appeared relaxed, even "cheerful." And South Koreans ate up any and all news they could get about her.
The Trump administration does not condone the comparison. Despite her well-received presentation, Kim Yo Jong has been personally targeted by U.S. sanctions for her prominent role in her brother's government. As the director of North Korea's propaganda and agitation department, Kim Yo Jong is not at very far a remove — if any — from the brutal policies that police behavior under the Kim family rule.
Presumably for those reasons, Pence did not acknowledge Kim Yo Jong at the opening ceremonies, even though the two were seated conspicuously in the same box.
Ivanka Trump's task will be to two-fold — she'll want to make at least as positive an impression as Kim Yo Jong. And she'll also be trying to avoid the controversies that hampered Pence's ability to unite the American Olympic team.