DailyBeast reports as the world waits to see if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is alive, dead, or somewhere in between at the age of 36, all eyes are turning to his little sister, 31-year-old Kim Yo Jong. She looks like the top contender to succeed him, but does she have what it takes to do that in a regime long characterized by extreme brutality?
She might well.
Kim Yo Jong’s rise within North Korea’s omnipotent Organization and Guidance Department makes her North Korea’s “No. 2” in the eyes of the Workers’ Party bureaucrats—and that makes her not only the most visible heir to Kim Jong Un’s throne but, already, a central figure of authority.
If, as some have reported, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is near death after a surgical procedure, Yo Jong may already have the power to fend off any challenges to her claim on leadership.
If Kim Jong Un Dies, His Younger Sister Is Primed to Take Over
She makes the decisions on what’s important enough for big brother Kim Jong Un’s scrutiny, says Robert Collins, who’s spent more than 40 years analyzing North Korea.
Collins, author of a lengthy study of the agency at the center of power in the North, says Kim Yo Jong exercises such authority around the OGD as to force party officials “to both fear and respect her.” Evidence that she’s got the job if not the title of OGD first vice director, he says, is that “the North Korean media always mentions her with Party cadre who are serving at that level.”
Kim Yo Jong’s importance at the OGD, which has life-or-death power over the country’s 26 million citizens, adds to the growing impression that she’s been groomed for years to serve as a regent for Kim Jong Un if he’s incapacitated by medical issues or, if he dies, while waiting for his son, a child of about 10, to assume the mantle.
Kim’s condition remains a mystery ever since his absence from view after a session of the rubber-stamp Supreme People’s Assembly on April 12, but there’s no doubt about little sister’s place within the North’s ruling dynasty.
Fox News reports amid speculation about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s health, focus has shifted to his elusive sister who may be next in line to assume the head of the Kim dynasty.
Even Kim Yo Jong’s age is a mystery. She’s rumored to be 36 years old, approximately four years younger than her brother, and reportedly is the youngest child of former leader Kim Jong Il.
Her first public appearance was at her father’s funeral in 2011. Since then, she has worked quietly in the background of Kim Jong Un’s regime, even accompanying him in 2018 as he met South Korean leader Moon Jae-in during the historic summit between the two nations.
Just months beforehand, she attended the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the region since the end of the Korean War in 1953. She later attended a highly publicized lunch with Moon Jae-in.
Kim Yo Jong would be the first woman to rule over North Korea which has built up its nuclear stronghold despite the rest of the country living in poverty.
Seoul repeatedly has denied that Kim Jong Un’s health was in dire peril, even as unconfirmed rumors and media reports suggested he was in a vegetative state after undergoing heart surgery.
Kim Yo Jong’s reputation has suggested she would rule much in the vein of her brother, who has represented the third generation of their family to lead North Korea.
In a rare public statement this past March, she criticized South Korea’s presidential Blue House for urging North Korea to cease nuclear-weapons testing in an effort to quell tensions in the region.
Kim Yo Jong currently has served as the first vice-department director of the Workers Party’s Central Committee.
U.S. officials placed her on a blacklist in 2017 for human-rights abuses.
From Heavy – Feb 8,2018:
1. She is the Youngest of Seven, and Her Private Life is Very Private.
Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland. pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 8, 2018
Kim Yo-Jong is the daughter of Kim Jong-il and Ko Yong-hui, and believed to be the youngest of seven siblings. She was born in 1987 and is the younger sister Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea. Not much is known about her, as is common when it comes to members of North Korea’s notoriously secret regime.
She studied in Bern, Switzerland from 1996 to 2000, and possibly studied at the Kim Il-sung Military University. She attended Kim Il-sung University, where she studied computer science.
She had a child in May 2015. The father is thought to be a fellow student at Kim Il-sung university, though his identity is not confirmed. He is thought to either work as part of a military unit that guards Kim Jong-un, or as an official at Room 39.
2. She’s Been Called Kim Jong-Un’s ‘Ivanka,’ Because her Brother Listens to her Advice
Sister of North Korean leader to come to South for Olympics. Bonner County Daily Bee-6 minutes ago. #NorthKorea #KimYoJong #News #Sports North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, an increasingly prominent figure in the country's leadership, will be part https://t.co/vYU6puXDlS pic.twitter.com/IwncCbRHug
— Jerome Adams (@jamesnews242) February 7, 2018
3. She’s Risen Quickly in Politics, Especially After her Father’s Death
Kim Yo Jong's role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She's actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly. pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 8, 2018
Kim Yo-Jon started her career at the WPK Publicity and Information Department. The office manages the news media and public affairs for North Korea. It also manages political education and ideological indoctrination activities.
She was given a position at the National Defense Commission in 2012. She worked as tour manager for her brother. In 2014, she accompanied her brother to vote for the Supreme People’s Assembly. This was the first time she was publicly identified as a senior official of the WPK Central Committee.
She has been head of the Workers Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department since March 2015, and also holds an unknown vice ministerial post.
In 2017, she was made an alternate member of Politburo, the decision making arm of the Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea. The decision confirmed her brother’s trust in her. She also plays the role of informant, according to North Korean analyst Ken Gause.