Ivanka Trump led the U.S. delegation at the closing ceremony of the Olympics on Sunday. Although her gestures at the event weren't quite as politically loaded as Vice President Mike Pence's had been at the games' opening, they were still symbolically important. Trump sat next to officials from South Korea and just in front of some from the North: Photos show Ivanka steadfastly ignoring North Korea while smiling and interacting with the government from Seoul.
Trump was seated right next to South Korean president Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook. Behind her was Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean general who is blacklisted by the United States. All of these representatives were seated in the VIP box and stood for the South Korean anthem. But Trump did not speak to Kim Yong Chol, instead focusing all her attention on South Korea's first couple.
"I'm so excited to be here. It’s just so incredibly inspiring," Trump said before the ceremony. "It's been an amazing couple of days, and such an honor and privilege to be here with our allies in South Korea and celebrate all that we’ve accomplished as a culture, a society economically and, of course, in sport."
Trump arrived in South Korea on Friday and had dinner that day with South Korean president Moon Jae-in. During the banquet, she gave a prepared speech about the relationship between the two countries and North Korea's nuclear program.
"We reaffirm our commitment to our maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean peninsula is denuclearized," she said, adding, "we continue to reaffirm our joint values and strategic cooperation as partners and allies."
President Moon gave his own remarks, which were complimentary toward President Trump. He told Ivanka that he was grateful for the president's support of the games.
He mentioned the dialogue that's recently been initiated between the two Koreas, saying that it was thanks in part to Trump's support.
His words were likely mostly a diplomatic nicety. Trump has overseen a steep decline in the United States' own relations with the DPRK over his presidency so far, which puts South Korea — an important U.S. ally — in a tricky position. Trump slapped an enormous sanctions package on North Korea during the Olympics, and prior to the games he used his State of the Union address to draw attention to people who have defected from the DPRK. A South Korean official said that the White House should have consulted them before making those comments, which had come as "a surprise."
After the dinner, Ivanka spent most of her time at the games attending competitions. She watched events in snowboarding, curling, bobsledding, and speedskating, and also met with former Olympians.
Trump has taken Pence's place as the honorary head of the U.S. Olympic delegation. Pence attended the opening ceremony and made a prominent statement by refusing to stand when the united athletes delegation from North and South Korea entered the stadium. He meant the gesture to show that the games do not represent a warming of relations between the DPRK and the United States, which will only occur when North Korea ends its nuclear program.
Trump, however, stood during the closing ceremony when the North and South Korean delegation entered the stadium.
During the opening event, Pence sat right near Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader. She did not attend the closing ceremony, which removed any chance of an encounter between her and Ivanka. The two women are often compared.
Other members of the U.S. delegation are White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Senator James Risch (R-ID), and General Vincent Brooks.