Kim Jong-un doesn’t seem like a dictator who trusted nobody but himself. While everybody talks, mocks and laughs at the young brutal North Korean dictator, who enjoyed blowing up his enemies with anti-aircraft gun, including his uncle, very few knew about Mr. Kim’s little sister – until now. Kim Yo-jong, who is 4 years younger than his brother, has just been promoted.
Rarely seen in public until 2010, when she was photographed attending a Korean Workers’ party conference, Kim Yo-jong was selected as an “alternate member” of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee within the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. Effectively, the 28-year-old ponytailed sister of Mr. Kim commands the absolute trust of the dictator.
Although the Political Bureau serves to rubber stamp Kim Jong-un’s decisions, it is still the hermit kingdom’s highest decision-making body for affairs of state. Kim Yo-jong’s promotion means she has strengthened her position as one of two most visible women in North Korean, with the other figure being none other than Mr. Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju.
The promotion is of paramount importance as she becomes the only second women after her aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, to join the Political Bureau. The move appears to indicate she is an increasingly important part of the family dynasty that runs the country. This does sound like how Thailand former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra engineered his sister Yingluck becoming the nation’s prime minister.
Of course, unlike Thaksin who lost his power due to military coup d’état in 2006, Jong-un still runs the hermit kingdom with absolute control. And unlike his half-brother Kim Jong-nam who was assassinated at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in February to prevent the U.S. from overthrowing Jong-un and installing Jong-nam as an American puppet, the North Korean leader has every reason to trust Yo-jong.
As a start, unlike the murdered Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong have the same mother – Ko Yong-hui – a Japanese-born former dancer who is believed to have been Kim Jong-il’s (Jong-un’s father) third partner. Yo-jong is believed to have had attended primary school in Berne, Switzerland, in the late 1990s, the same school his brother Jong-un attended.
Yo-jong studied computer science at the prestigious Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang. One of the reasons why Rocket Man Kim, as what U.S. President Trump likes to call him these days, trusted his sister is the fact that she knew how to play her role. She keeps an extremely low profile as not to be seen as a threat to her elder brother.
More importantly, Yo-jong, who was appointed vice-director of the party’s propaganda and agitation department in late 2014, is the brains behind creating a cult of personality around her brother. She packaged and presented his brother as a benevolent, accessible leader modelled on his grandfather – North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung – to the people of North Korea.
In fact, she was thought to be the one who had done the marketing stuntbehind Kim Jong-un’s visits to theme parks, schools and the homes of ordinary North Koreans. At a massive military parade in April to mark the 105th birth anniversary of founding father Kim Il Sung, she was seen rushing out from behind pillars to bring paperwork to her brother as he prepared to give an address.
Back in March 2016, she accompanied Kim Jong-un to a field guidance for nuclear scientists, where he claimed successful miniaturisation of nuclear warheads. There was even rumours that for a brief period in 2014 when Dictator Kim was absent from public life due to an undisclosed health problem, she was entrusted to run the state affairs.
Both Jong-un and Yo-jong have another brother – Kim Jong Chol – the oldest of Kim Jong Il’s sons. The three Kims are full blood siblings. But unlike the assassinated Kim Jong-nam who had publicly spoken out against the family’s dynastic control, Jong Chol does not involve himself in politics, but leading a quiet life in Pyongyang where he plays guitar in a band.
Kim Jong Chol was initially preferred by his father Kim Jong Il as his successor. The Korean People’s Army had even started a propaganda campaign to boost the profile of Jong Chol. However, his father soon realized that the eldest of the three siblings was too soft – “like a little girl” – and therefore wasn’t the material to rule North Korea, unlike younger Jong-un.
Little sister Yo-jong isn’t a lady you want to fool around though. A South Korea’s former spy chief claimed that Yo-jong was seen “abusing power”, punishing propaganda department executives for “minor mistakes”. The U.S. Treasury Department has actually blacklisted her in January for “severe human rights abuses” and censorship that concealed the regime’s “inhumane and oppressive behaviour”.
Although Kim Yo-jong’s initial role was to help craft her brother’s image, her promotion points towards a generational shift as Dictator Kim seeks to make a clean break with the personnel who surrounded his father. Hence, she could be promoted as a replacement for her aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, a member of his father’s inner circle who does not have an active role in the new regime.
Besides showing he trusts her and that she is absolutely loyal to her brother, the promotion of Kim Yo-jong also shows that Kim Jong-un regime is “trying to extend power and run the regime like a family dynasty”. It’s unclear if it was his younger sister who wrote the speech from which Jong-un called President Trump a “dotard” recently.
She reportedly married Choe Song, the son of the Workers’ party vice chairman Choe Ryong-hae, in early 2015, and had a child in May that year. Significantly, the senior Choe was promoted to the party’s powerful military commission last weekend. But his younger sister wasn’t the only person Kim Jong-un has just promoted.
Kim Jong-sik and Ri Pyong-chol, two of the three men behind Kim’s banned rocket programme, were also promoted. North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, who called Donald Trump “President Evil”, likening the U.S. president to “the sound of a dog barking” in a bombastic speech to the U.N. General Assembly last month, was promoted to full vote-carrying member of the politburo.
The large-scale personnel reshuffle indicates that Kim Jong-un is seriously looking for a breakthrough by promoting a new generation of politicians, whose ideas could be beneficial to navigate a way through increasing isolation due to the kingdom’s nuclear weapon program. And Mr. Kim can definitely count on his sister to be his eyes and ears in the powerful politburo.
– Finance Twitter