Who is Kim Yo Jong? North Korea Leader's Sister May Just Be More Dangerous Than Him

Kim Jong Un with sister Kim Yo Jong (Reuters)

Kim Jong Un with sister Kim Yo Jong (Reuters)

Yo Jong has worked behind the scenes in North Korea's propaganda agencies, a role that led the United States to add her to a list of sanctioned senior officials in 2017 because of human rights abuses and censorship.

Buzz Staff
  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 19, 2020, 5:10 PM IST
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Last Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the most powerful man in North Korea, Kim Jong Un, suggested the decimation of a Joint Liaison Office between North and South Korea in Kaesong. By Tuesday, the office was reduced to rubble.

And as the smoke cleared, Jon Un emerged as a new face in North Korea's political leadership, one that is already been touted as a successor to the secretive nation.

In the recent past, Jong Un has been seen taking a leading role in a new, more hard-line pressure campaign against South Korea, highlighting what analysts say is a substantive policy role that goes beyond being her brother's assistant.

And 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.

Who is Kim Yo Jong?

Believed to be in her early 30s, Kim Yo Jong is the only close relative of the North Korean leader to play a public role in politics.

During the 2018-2019 flurry of international diplomacy, Kim Yo Jong garnered global attention by leading a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Later, she was often seen dashing about to make sure everything went well for her older brother, including holding an ashtray for him at a train station on his way to a summit with US President Donald Trump in Vietnam.

But in recent months, Yo Jung seems to have taken on a more hands-on role, especially since the nation's anti-South Korean agenda came to the fore.

Why blowing up the liaison office is significant?

The explosion comes as a blow to bilateral North and South Korean relations following a week of tensions after activists and defectors from South Korea sent anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets against Jong Un's dictatorial rule and human rights violations, hidden in balloons that were flown into the North. Pyongyang reacted by threatening to end the 2018 military pact to reduce inter Korean tensions.

Blowing up of the office, which was the central point of contact for inter-Korean relations and a symbolic totem of peace and cooperation between the North and South, is being seen as an end to a continuing dialogue between the two nations.

Sister tougher than Kim Jong Un?

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.

"By exercising my power authorised by the Supreme Leader, our Party and the state, I gave an instruction to the … department in charge of the affairs with [the] enemy to decisively carry out the next action," Yo Jong said in a statement as state news agency KCNA.

The bombing came upon Seoul's failure to respond and has further cemented speculation about Yo Jung becoming Jong Un's successor in leading the secretive nation. But she did not stop there.

North on Wednesday threatened to bolster its military presence in and near the Demilitarized Zone, a day after blowing up its liaison office with the South, prompting sharp criticism from Seoul. In a series of denunciations of South Korea, the nuclear-armed North rejected an offer from President Moon Jae-in to send envoys for talks.

Yo Jong called the offer a "tactless and sinister proposal", as per KCNA news.

Seoul retorted with an unusually stern condemnation, calling her remarks "senseless" and "very rude".

Yo Jong has worked behind the scenes in North Korea's propaganda agencies, a role that led the United States to add her to a list of sanctioned senior officials in 2017 because of human rights abuses and censorship. In 2018, she became the first of the Kims to visit South Korea since the Korean War and has since been actively involved in the nuclear-armed nation's international relations and diplomacy policies.

In March, state media carried the first-ever statement by Kim, in which she criticized South Korean authorities. That was followed by several more, including a response to comments by Trump.

Rising from the ranks of Jong Un's younger sister to his personal assistant to now his "enforcer", experts have even surmised that Yo Jung would be an even tougher, more brutal ruler than her dictator brother. While her direct bloodline ensures her hold over the politburo, her trigger-happy debut has definitely drawn eyes.

Will Jong Un's sister become the first woman to rule the deeply male-dominated political sphere of North Korea and emerge its leader? Blowing up a symbol of peace sure seems like a stunning way to arrive in world politics after all.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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