North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s ‘tough’ sister Kim Yo Jong has over time emerged as one of the most influential leaders in the country – one who doesn’t shy away from ruffling some diplomatic feathers to make her point. On Tuesday, Deputy Director of the United Front Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) slammed the US and South Korea, offering a “word of advice to the new administration of the United States that is struggling to spread the smell of gunpowder on our land from across the ocean”.
Addressing the new Joe Biden administration in the US which began joint military exercises last week with South Korea, Kim Yo Jong said, “If you wish to sleep well for the next four years, it would be better not to create a stink”. With Biden about to lay out his Korean policy, North Korea’s statement came even as the new US secretaries of state and defence began a visit to Tokyo and Seoul and is the first statement in acknowledgement of Joe Biden, who became the 46th American President four months ago, though she did not address him by his name.
Slamming the joint exercises as a precursor to military invasion, Yo Jong said, “The South Korean government yet again chose the ‘March of War’, the ‘March of Crisis’.”
This, however, is not the first time Kim Yo Jong has shown her dark side.
Yo Jong, who emerged as a new face in North Korea’s political leadership in the last couple of years, has often been touted as a successor to the secretive nation’s governance. The 32-year-old went viral across media earlier in the year when her brother reportedly fell ill in May, allowing her to step in and take control in his absence. She is also a trusted adviser to Kim Jong Un. And much like her brother, Yo Jong is also quick with her temper and shocking statements.
She was a key voice when inter-Korean tensions mounted last year, culminating in the North blowing up a South Korean liaison office on its side of the border.
‘Frightened Barking Dog’
In April last year when Seoul protested against live-fire military exercise carried out by the North, Yo Jong made her first public statement condemning South Korea as a “frightened dog barking”.
In March, she had gone public with her praise for former Republican President Donald Trump. The latter had sent a letter to Kim Jong Un offered support to tide over the coronavirus crisis. He had also said he hoped to maintain friendly bilateral relations with the nation.
‘Pay Dearly for it’
Yo Jong also reportedly said that South Korea’s foreign minister would “pay dearly” after she questioned the North’s claim to be coronavirus free.
South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha said in December last year that it’s hard to believe North Korea’s claim that there has been no virus outbreak on its soil. She added that the North has been unresponsive to South Korea’s offer for cooperation to jointly tackle the pandemic.
Warning of potential consequences for the comments, she Yo Jong said, “It can be seen from the reckless remarks made by her without any consideration of the consequences that she is too eager to further chill the frozen relations between North and South Korea”.
“Her real intention is very clear. We will never forget her words and she might have to pay dearly for it,” Yo Jong said in a statement.
In May last year, Yo Jong led the decimation of a Joint Liaison Office between North and South Korea in Kaesong over a diplomatic tussle with the country regarding some dissent flyers that had been flown in by activists questioning Jong Un’s policies. Blowing up the liaison office, built-in 2018 to improve inter-Korean communications, was a move both tactical and symbolic. With it, Jong Un not only put herself at the forefront of North Korea’s stand on South Korea but also emerged as one of the top leaders in the North Korean politburo after her brother Jon Un himself. The move is symbolic as blowing up a liaison office sends a powerful message. And spearheading the change is the tough Yo Jung. The Supreme Leader’s sister previously warned South Korea that she would shut down the liaison office.
(With inputs from Associated Press)