Kim Yo-jong is Kim Jong-un’s younger sister and there is talk that she may be in the pipeline to succeed her brother in leading North Korea.
When South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently called for an end to the war on the Korean Peninsula, the initial response was a rejection of the Deputy Foreign Minister of North Korea.
This has been Pyongyang’s typical response whenever the idea of turning the 1953 armistice between the two warring Koreas into a peace treaty comes up.
So it came as a surprise when, the next day, a somewhat warmer message emerged from Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un, who declared the idea “admirable”.
However, it specified a series of preconditions that would need to be met: “What needs to be abandoned are fraudulent attitudes, illogical prejudice, bad habits and the hostile attitude of justifying their own actions and at the same time blaming our just exercise of the right to self-defence”.
This is the kind of message you would normally expect to come from Kim Jong-un himself, as such it has sparked a discussion about how much weight the world can put on a statement from his younger sister.
Who is Kim Yo-jong?
The supreme leader’s sister first came to international attention in 2018, when she became the first member of North Korea’s Kim dynasty to visit South Korea as a diplomat. He was part of the national delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, in which the two countries competed as a team.
Yo-jong met with President Moon and appeared on photo opportunities alongside US Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — who will be succeeded by Fumio Kishida.
After what was reported as his diplomatic triumph at the Winter Olympics, his profile grew to meet the chinese president, Xi Jinping, and was present at all three face-to-face meetings between his brother and the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
However, little is known about Kim Yo-jong’s childhood — even his birth date is shrouded in uncertainty.
Yo-jong is the youngest daughter of former Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il’s relationship with Ko Yong-hui, who was originally from Japan and therefore would have been considered to belong to a lower caste in the complex system songbun of Korea if Kim Jong-il had not withdrawn the official record of his origin.
It is said that Kim Yo-jong attended the same private school as his older brother in Bern, Switzerland, after which he attended Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang, where he studied computer science.
In 2009, Kim Jong-il’s health problems made the succession an urgent matter of debate and it became increasingly clear that Kim Jong-un was being prepared to take the lead after his death. But at Kim Jong-il’s funeral, Kim Yo-jong was photographed alongside older family members.
yo-jong gone elevated to politburo twice, in 2017 to 2019 and 2020 to 2021. In addition, it is also head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, in which he has boosted the personality cult around his brother, as well as making regular statements about North Korea’s foreign relations.
believed to be married to Choe Song, the youngest son of Korean Workers’ Party secretary Choe Ryong Hae, which gives you another source of political power.
How much power does Kim Yo-jong really have? A June 2020 incident shows the extent to which he can exercise his will in North Korea.
In retaliation for the use of balloons by South Korean defectors to drop propaganda leaflets in the North, he warned that he had ordered the department in charge of inter-Korean affairs “to assertively carry out the next action,” adding that: “In a short time, a scene The tragedy of the useless North-South joint liaison office would be seen to have completely collapsed”.
The next day, the building exploded, suggesting that when Kim Yo-jong asks for something, it happens.
Another interesting episode may reveal details about the power relations between Yo-jong and his brother. In March 2020, Kim Yo-jong issued his first official statement, attacking South Korea’s presidential office, the so-called Blue House, which called on the North to stop its shooting exercises. The North Korean referred to the leadership as “a mere child” and “a child burned in fear of fire.”
Two days later, Kim Jong-un sent a message of condolences for the covid-19 outbreak in the south. This “underlined his unshakable friendship and trust with President Moon and said that he will continue to silently send out his best wishes for President Moon to get over this.”
The message left the Korean observers confused about whether the brothers were at odds about North-South relations or if this was a show of diplomacy “good cop, bad cop” (“Good cop, bad cop”).
This is a family where many of the potential male candidates for power have gone. executed or murdered — including Kim Jong-nam, stepbrother of Kim Jong-un who was murdered with nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur Airport in 2017; and his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was reportedly executed by a firing squad in 2013, after being accused of being a counterrevolutionary.
Therefore, the situation of Kim Yo-jong’s relationship with his brother is as scrutinized as Kim Jong-un’s physical health when it comes to whether—and when—may be in a position to challenge the ultimate power in North Korea.
In North Korea, it seems that to achieve leadership it is necessary to grasp the power of the trinity of military, do match e do people. Both Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un became key figures in the National Defense Commission, as did the party through the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP).
Kim Yo-jong may have achieved name recognition in his capacity as a foreign affairs spokesperson and has access to power in the KWP. But she has not yet been appointed to a position on the National Defense Commission.
If this happens soon, could be a sign that North Korea is preparing for its first female leader.