North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have put his younger sister Kim Yo-jong in charge of the pariah nation’s powerful state security apparatus, it has emerged.
Citing anonymous sources, South Korean paper, Chosun Ibo, speculated that her role may have been indicated in December by her seating position at the ruling Worker’s Party congress, where she was spotted next to her brother’s right-hand man, Choe Ryong-hae.
In a country where optics are all-important, rankings are often signified by the proximity to Kim Jong-un at public events. “Judging by her seat, there is a possibility that she has been promoted,” said a South Korean government source.
The position would put her in charge of the State Security Department, overseeing police and prosecution, reported the paper.
The role was once held by Jang Song-taek, Mr Kim’s once powerful uncle, who he had executed in 2013. The department was put under party control after his death but has since been “revived and established as an independent entity,” said a source.
Speculation has been rising about the exact role of Mr Kim’s mysterious sister, believed to be in her late twenties, since she was elevated to the country’s reclusive politburo, North Korea’s top decision-making body, in October.
The promotion made her one of the country’s most influential women, suggesting that she had replaced their aunt Kim Kyong-hee, who was a key decision-maker when their father and former leader, Kim Jong-il, was alive.
It has been viewed as a consolidation of the Kim family’s power, and the growing reach of the younger generation.
Mr Kim is said to implicitly trust his sister, with whom he shares the same mother. She has reportedly been instrumental behind the scenes as head of the party’s propaganda department in attempting to portray him as a benevolent leader.
Alongside Mr Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, Yo-jong is one of the two most visible women in North Korean public life, and is regularly seen with the young dictator at public functions.
Mr Kim’s younger sibling has also been touted as possible contender to lead the country’s Olympic delegation in February, which would make her the first member of the Kim family to go to South Korea.
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