Kim Jong-un’s Sister Reportedly Promoted Back Into Politburo Amid Behind-the-Scenes Intrigue
11:24 GMT 19.12.2021 (Updated: 14:03 GMT 19.12.2021)
© AP Photo / Loung Thai LinhNorth Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo Jong holds a bouquet of flowers during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace, Friday, March 1, 2019, in Hanoi, Vietnam
© AP Photo / Loung Thai Linh
Kim Yo-jong began gaining international attention after her historic visit to South Korea as Kim Jong-un’s personal envoy during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. She has since been regularly spotted accompanying her brother at major events, including his meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump.
Kim Yo-jong appears to have been promoted back into the Politburo – the highest decision-making body of the ruling Korean Workers Party – just several months after losing the post at a party congress.
Kim was mentioned on Saturday in a report by the official Korean Central News Agency on a national memorial service marking the tenth anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il, her and Kim Jong-un’s father.
According to the report, Kim appeared at the ceremony on the platform alongside Korean Workers Party chairman Kim Jong-un, as well as other full and alternate (non-voting) members of the Politburo, the Central Committee and the Supreme People’s Assembly. She was listed among “senior officials of the Party and government” at the event and seen in a video broadcast by North Korean television standing sixth from Kim’s left.
South Korean news agency Yonhap took Kim Yo-jong’s mention alongside other members of the Politburo as an indication that she has been promoted back into the body, either as a full or alternate member.
Kim Yo-jong has a seat in the State Affairs Commission, the body with de facto responsibility for supervising the cabinet, and is a vice department director in the Central Committee – the apparatus making decisions for the party between congresses and nominally responsible for electing the Politburo.
Kim’s position in the Politburo has been shrouded in a veil of intrigue, with the official serving as an alternate member of the powerful body between 2017 until 2019, and then again from 2020 to early 2021. At the 8th Congress of the Workers Party in January, Kim reportedly lost her seat in the Politburo and her position as first vice-chairwoman of the Central Committee.
11 January 2021, 15:45 GMT
Kim Yo-jong’s bobbing and weaving within the corridors of power in North Korea has been subject to intense monitoring by South Korean and Western intelligence and media amid constant speculation that she may be her brother’s “de facto second-in-command” and potential successor, particularly amid the endless spate of rumours over Kim Jong-un’s health fueled by the South Korean tabloid press.
Kim burst onto the international scene in 2018, when she travelled to South Korea as a personal envoy to Kim Jong-un at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Sitting in the stands at the games together with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US Vice President Mike Pence, US media reports at the time begrudgingly suggested that she had “outflanked” Pence and “stole much of the show” at the event.
29 October 2021, 01:08 GMT
In the years since, Kim Yo-jong regularly appeared alongside her brother in peace talks with Moon, and behind the scenes during Kim Jong-un’s historic negotiations with President Trump.
© AP Photo / Pyongyang Press Corps PoolSister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Kim Yo-jong during a meeting between the leader of the DPRK and the President of South Korea in Pyongyang
Sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Kim Yo-jong during a meeting between the leader of the DPRK and the President of South Korea in Pyongyang
© AP Photo / Pyongyang Press Corps Pool
In recent months, Kim Yo-jong has made headlines with commentaries on North Korea’s defence policy, and Pyongyang’s relations with South Korea and the US. Not averse to making terse, biting statements, she accused South Korea of emulating the “gangster-like logic" of the US after Seoul expressed concerns about North Korea’s missile tests, and called activists sending propaganda balloons to the north “human scum.”
In June, she ruled out the Biden administration’s proposals for talks, hinting at the futility of talks for the sake of talks alone. In September, Kim hailed Seoul’s “admirable” proposal to formally end the Korean War, but said Seoul would first need to stop its “hostile policies” against Pyongyang, such as large-scale drills with the US and sending propaganda leaflets to the north.