Bringing his 28-year-old sister closer to the center of power and tightening the family’s control on the regime, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promoted her to the ruling party’s political wing.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Jong Un called for continuing nuclear-arms development to defend against what he called “U.S. imperialists’ nuclear blackmail” at a Workers’ Party convention Saturday in Pyongyang, and it was also here that the promotion of Kim Yo Jong took place.
“The present situation is stern and we are faced with ordeals,” Kim told the meeting as the party promoted dozens of officials. His sister was an alternate member of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee and was part of the party officials. Serving as the party’s core decision-making body, the bureau is led by Kim Jong Un.
For “human rights abuses and censorship activities”, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has sanctioned Kim Yo Jong, a vice director at the party’s propaganda department, was sanctioned along with six other North Korean officials in January. Treasury gave her age as 28.
Ko Yong Hui is the mother of both Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong. In an attack in which North Korea denies it played a role, their half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was murdered in February at a Malaysian airport with the chemical weapon VX. Kim Jong Nam occasionally made comments critical of the regime and had been living outside North Korea for years.
Since Kim Jong Un took power in 2011 after the death of his father Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Nam is not the first family member to have been killed. Putting charges of graft and factionalism, Kim Jong Un had executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek in 2013. Jang’s his death led to the disappearance of the leader’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui and he had once served as Kim Jong Un’s deputy.
And in a country where family ties mean more than any title or rank, Kim Yo Jong has been seen as the most influential woman along with Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, and has since appeared more prominently in public. While orchestrating North Korea’s cult of personality that began under her grandfather Kim Il Sung, she often chooses to remain in her brother’s shadow at public events.
“She’s been recognized for the work she’s done in the past year to idolize Kim Jong Un,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at South Korea’s University of North Korean Studies. “Kim Jong Un is extending his father and grandfather’s practice of empowering family members.”
(Adapted from Bloomberg)