Kim Yo-Jong Rising in DPRK Leadership?
Kim Yo-Jong Elected to New Positions After DPRK Party Congress
Who is she?
Kim Yo-Jong is the youngest daughter of the late Kim Jong-il, and the younger sister of the current North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. She is currently deputy director of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK) Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD) (2014 – now), a member of the WPK Central Committee (May 2016 – now) and a delegate (unconfirmed officially) to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) (July 2016 – now).
Since Kim Jong-un’s official accession to power in 2012, Yo-Jong has worked in his Personal Secretariat where she helped managed his itineraries, events, and on-site visits. It is believed that she continues to function in this role today, even after she had acquired other prominent positions over the past year. In this vein, she plays an important role in determining access to Kim Jong-un, which grants her formidable power and leverage within the North Korean circle of elites.
She made her first official appearance as a government official in March 2014, where she appeared alongside her brother at the Kim Il-Sung University of Politics to cast a ballot during the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) elections, and has often appeared prominently in public with her brother during meetings with senior officials of the North Korean government. Since then she has been gradually given prominent positions within the North Korean government, starting with her deputy director position within the PAD sometime in 2014. Earlier in May 2016, at the end of the Workers’ Party Congress, she was elected to be a member of the powerful WPK Central Committee and most recently (June 2016) was elected as a delegate to the SPA, the North Korean parliament.
Many details of her life are unknown and what we do know comes mostly from North Korean accounts. Experts believe she was born in September 1987, and is the only daughter of Ko Yong-hui, the mother of Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-chol. Like her older brothers, she also went to the same school (1996-2000) in Bern, Switzerland, under the alias “Kim Yong-sun.” She resurfaced publicly in North Korea in 2008 – to be with her father after he suffered strokes in August and September of that year – and appeared more frequently in 2009 to prepare for her brother’s succession process. It was during that time that she reportedly began working in the Party Central Committee.
Since Kim Jong-un’s official accession to power in 2012, Yo-Jong has worked in his Personal Secretariat where she helped managed his itineraries, events, and on-site visits.
Following her brother’s assumption of power after the death of their father Kim Jong-il in December 2011, it is presumed that she became the organizer of Kim Jong-un’s official activities by assuming the role of protocol secretary in his Personal Secretariat. In January 2014, Chosun Ilbo, citing North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity reported that she had taken on more duties after her uncle Jang Song-thaek’s death. She reportedly took charge of Department 54 – responsible for supplying necessities like coal and electricity to the military – as well as cash-earning agencies under the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)’s Room 39 and Room 38, in addition to Kyonghung Guidance Bureau and Rakwon Guidance Bureau, formerly run by her aunt Kim Kyong-hui.
Why has she been in the news?
Kim Yo-Jong made a public appearance at the fourth meeting of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly on June 30, pictured alongside other senior North Korean officials in photographs published by Rodong Sinmun. Reports later speculated that she is possibly now a delegate to the Supreme People’s Assembly.
What can we expect from her?
The public images and news of Kim Yo-Jong’s rise to political prominence suggest that she has taken on a leadership role within the North Korean regime in the past year. With her aunt reportedly in dire health and failing to appear publicly since her husband Jang Song-thaek’s execution on December 12, 2013, and with the absence of Kim Kyong-hui’s name on a list of high-ranking North Korean officials circulated by the ROK Ministry of Unification in December 2015, there are indications that Yo-jung has taken on responsibilities similar to her aunt’s role as the close Kim family confidant and assistant to her brother. Within her current role at the PAD, Yo-jung holds considerable influence over all media in North Korea, including official depictions of her brother Kim Jong-un and the maintenance of the Kim family’s cult of personality. At only 28 or 29 years of age, however, this reality hardly lends one to have a confident assessment about the future of North Korea.