North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s influential sister Kim Yo Jong has become even more powerful — after being promoted to the Hermit Kingdom’s top decision-making body.
The 34-year-old woman — who served as a deputy director in the ruling party — was named Thursday to the State Affairs Commission, the country’s top government body headed by her older brother, CNN reported, citing the state-run KCNA.
Yo Jong’s profile has risen in recent months, leading some to speculate that she was being groomed to succeed her sibling, whose health has been a source of much speculation.
“Kim Jong Un has raised Kim Yo Jong’s status,” Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told Agence France-Presse.
Yo Jong, one of three children born to Kim’s predecessor Kim Jong Il and former dancer Ko Yong Hui, was educated in Switzerland along with her brother and shot up the ranks once he inherited power after their father’s death in 2011.
She has often been seen Kim’s side, including at his summits with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and then-President Donald Trump.
In December, the strongman’s sister slammed South Korea’s foreign minister for his “reckless remarks” about Pyongyang’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic — warning the top diplomat that she might have to “pay dearly.”
She also made bellicose remarks aimed at Seoul and Washington, particularly ahead of the North blowing up a liaison office on its side of the border last year that the South had built and paid for.
There is “no doubt” that the North Korean leader has a very close relationship with his sister, Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.
“Jong Un and Yo Jong spent much of their lonely childhood overseas together — I think this is when they developed something that is similar to comradeship, on top of sibling love,” he told the outlet.
Meanwhile, KCNA reported Thursday that Kim said he is willing to restore inter-Korean hotlines next month but accused Washington of proposing talks without changing the “hostile policy” by the US.
The leader made his remarks at the Supreme People’s Assembly, which gathered for a second day to discuss the government’s political, economic and social agenda, according to Reuters.
As he expressed a willingness to reconnect the hotlines, Kim criticized South Korea’s “delusion” over what it calls North Korean military provocations.
“We have neither aim nor reason to provoke South Korea and no idea to harm it,” Kim said, according to KCNA.
The rogue regime severed the hotlines in early August in protest against joint South Korea-US military exercises, just days after reopening them for the first time in a year.