Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong is North Korea's rising star and newest power player

On Sunday, North Korean state media reported that Kim Jong-un promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, making her one of the most powerful women in the country.

KCNA news agency reported that Kim Yo-jong was elevated to the position of an alternate member of the party's powerful politburo, the decision-making body presided over by her brother.

File image of Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong. AP

File image of Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong. AP

According to a report in The Washington Post, she was promoted at a meeting of senior party members as North Korea celebrated the 20th anniversary of Kim Jong-il accepting the title of general secretary of the ruling Worker's Party of Korea.

Kim Yo-jong is believed to have replaced her aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, who was a key decision maker during Kim Jong-il's administration, which leaves her brother and her as the only millennials in the influential body.

'Rising star'

CNN reported that Kim Yo-jong was born in 1987,  followed in her brother's footsteps by studying in Switzerland and is believed to have attended Kim Il Sung University and a western European school for her higher education.

Kim Yo-jong has long been a rising star in North Korea’s power circles and was recently given responsibility for developing the leader’s cult of personality, she replaced a veteran propaganda chief and had assumed control of “consolidating Kim Jong-un’s power” by implementing “idolisation projects”, The Guardian reported.

In 2011, she featured prominently at the state funeral of their father Kim Jong-il. She then remained outside the public spotlight until early 2014, when she re-emerged at her brother’s side during elections to fill the seats in North Korea’s rubber-stamp legislature, The Guardian reported.

Writing for Al Jazeera in February, Michael Madden, a visiting scholar at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, described Kim Yo-jong as one of the North Korean leaders "closest aides".

"Like her older half-sister, Sul-song, Yo-jong was a favourite child and expressed an early interest in North Korean politics," wrote Madden, who is also predicted that "Yo-jong will be a power player" in North Korean "for a long time to come as her career is just getting started", Madden told Al Jazeera.

A Seoul-based think tank run by North Korean defectors have alleged that Kim Yo-jong briefly took charge of the country while her brother was reportedly ill with gout or diabetes in late 2014, CNN reported.

Kim Jong-un consolidating power

The Guardian reported that Michael Madden said: “It shows that her portfolio and writ is far more substantive than previously believed and it is a further consolidation of the Kim family’s power.”

Harry Kazanis, director of defense studies at the Center For the National Interest, an American think tank, told CNBC that Saturday's appointment  was a play by Kim Jong-un to ensure that his inner circle is filled with those he trusts.

Kim Yo-jong has long held senior positions in the Workers' Party, with media reports previously referring to her as vice-director of the propaganda department. Her promotion is "part of a continual shake-up Kim Jong-un is doing. He doesn't want to keep the same people his father had in place", he told CNBC.

Kim Yo-jong has frequently been seen accompanying her brother Kim Jong-un on his "field guidance trips" and other events and is known to have been involved in the party's propaganda operations.

In January, the US Treasury blacklisted Kim Yo-jong along with other North Korean officials over “severe human rights abuses”.

Both were born to the late former ruler Kim Jong-il and his third partner, former dancer Ko Yong-hui.

Tensions rise between North Korea and US

The promotion was announced along with those for dozens of other top officials at a party meeting led by the leader on Saturday. It came as the regime faces growing global pressure to curb its weapons drive following recent nuclear and missile tests.

Tensions have soared as Kim traded verbal threats with US president Donald Trump, who tweeted on Saturday  that "only one thing will work" to tame the isolated nuclear-armed state.


The Kim family has ruled North Korea since its creation in 1948. Kim Jong-un took power after the death of his father in December 2011.

Since then, Kim Jong-un has overseen four of the country's six nuclear tests most recently in September while cementing his grip on power through a series of purges, including those targeting his uncle and half-brother.

The uncle, Jang Song-thaek, was executed in 2013 for treason and the half-brother Kim Jong-nam was killed by a toxic nerve agent in a Cold War-style assassination at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 09, 2017 13:11 PM

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