Who is Kim Yo Jong? What we know about the North Korean leader’s sister – National

Who is Kim Yo Jong? What we know about the North Korean leader’s sister - National

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On Sunday, North Korea‘s state media reported that the reclusive state’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has appointed his younger sister to a new position in the regime.

Kim Yo Jong, who is the youngest daughter of the late Kim Jong Il, was named as an alternate member of the politburo — the country’s decision-making body — within the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

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An expert speaking to Reuters said the move indicates Jong Un is moving people he trusts most to positions of power.

“Since she is a female, Kim Jong Un likely does not see her as a threat and a challenge to his leadership,” Moon Hong-sik, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said.

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“As the saying goes, ‘Blood is thicker than water,’ Kim Jong Un thinks Kim Yo Jong can be trusted.”

Public information on Yo Jong is limited. Here’s what we know:

Who is Kim Yo Jong?

Yo Jong is said to be between 28 and 30 years of age.

Details on Yo Jong are scarce, as were her public appearances during the reign of her father. Yo Jong was publicly identified for the first time in February 2011, and made her debut in state media months later in December, at her father’s funeral.

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Since Jong Il’s death, she’s been seen more often alongside her brother at public events.

Yo Jong is believed to have studied in Bern, Switzerland in the late 1990s, Reuters reported, then at the Kim Il-sung University in North Korea.

People watch a TV news program showing Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 27, 2014.

/Ahn Young-joon/AP

There were reports she married a classmate from the university, but it’s unclear who it may be. According to BBC News, there has been speculation that her husband is the son of Choe Ryong-hae, North Korea’s ruling party’s secretary.

Former position with the government

Yo Jong’s new position isn’t her first key role under her brother’s leadership. In 2014, she was appointed to lead the party’s propaganda department, meaning she made decisions on the dictator’s public appearances and acted as a political adviser.

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The Guardian reports that the sister is responsible for crafting her brother’s public persona, making him appear more accessible than their father. Under her advice, Jong Un has made appearances at theme parks, people’s homes and schools.

In 2014, when Jong Un took a mysterious hiatus from public life, there were reports that Yo Jong was gearing up to take control of the regime. 

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Details on her new role

Yo Jong’s new position means she will replace the leader’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, who was an influential part of Jong Il’s team. These two women are the only known females who’ve been key members of the regime, according to Reuters.

She’s one of the most well-known women in the patriarchal country, next to Jong Un’s wife, who makes rare public appearances.

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According to The New York Times, she’s also the youngest member of the politburo.

By promoting Yo Jong, it’s likely her brother is ensuring the family’s political dynasty stays intact, even if he’s unable to remain leader for some reason, the Times reports.

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Blacklisted in the United States

The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Yo Jong and six other North Korean officials in January, citing “severe human rights abuses,” and attempts to conceal the regime’s “inhumane” behaviour against civilians. The leader’s sister was included in the list because of her position in directing the regime’s propaganda.

Along with the United States, South Korea has also been critical of Yo Jong, accusing her of “abusing power.”

— With files from Reuters

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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