Category: Kim Yo Jong

Kim Yo-jong now ‘de facto second in command’

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The influential younger sister of the North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, has become his de facto second-in-command with responsibility for relations with South Korea and the US, according to Seoul’s spy agency. This isaccording to Ha Tae-keung, a South Korean MP who sits on the national assembly’s intelligence committee.

Ha said Kim Jong-un had ceded a degree of authority to his younger sister, who has risen through the ruling party ranks since accompanying her brother to his 2019 nuclear summit with Donald Trump in Vietnam.

“The bottom line is that Kim Jong-un still holds absolute power but has turned over a bit more of his authority compared to the past,” Ha said after a closed-door briefing by South Korea’s national intelligence service. “Kim Yo-jong is the de facto second-in-command.”

Ha said Kim Jong Un had also delegated some decision-making powers over economic and military policy to other senior officials. He speculated that the move may be intended to reduce the strain on Kim – who was recently the subject of rumors about his health – and enable him to avoid blame for any failures.

He added, however, that while Kim Yo-jong, who is thought to be in her early 30s, appeared to be directing policy towards toward Washington and Seoul, there were no signs that she was being groomed for the leadership or that her brother was in poor health.

Speaking at a meeting of the party’s central committee on Wednesday, Kim Jong Un also conceded there had been “unexpected and inevitable challenges in various aspects and the situation in the region surrounding the Korean peninsula” – thought to be a reference to sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and torrential rain that has hit in recent weeks. In unusually frank terms the party concluded that “the goals for improving the national economy had been seriously  delayed” and living standards had not been “remarkably” improved, the state-run news agency KCNA said.

[The Guardian]

North Korea most fears information

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Leaflets condemning the single-minded authoritarian rule of Kim Jong Un do not always make it across the border in helium balloons. But when they do, they can end up in the hands of the people who serve as a pillar for the regime’s security, according to Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

“The key point about the balloons is that 80 percent of the Korean People’s Army is forward deployed south of the Pyongyang-Wonsan line,” Scarlatoiu told UPI. “Many of these units are within reach [of the balloons]. Even if they round up all of the leaflets, the North Korean officers in charge are going to read them.”

Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister who has called defectors “human scum” and “rubbish-like mongrel dogs,” could be nervous about the eroding isolation of ordinary North Koreans, who live only a few hours away from Koreans in the South, one of the most wired societies in the world. By contrast, North Korea keeps a tight lid on outside information. There are only 2,000 IP addresses for a population of 25 million people, according to Scarlatoiu.

In response to North Korean threats of retaliation against the South, Seoul recently moved to ban balloon launches and revoked the operating licenses of two organizations, Fighters for a Free North Korea and Kuensaem. South Korea’s decision to penalize activists diminishes the prospect of delivering information to North Korea, says Suzanne Scholte, the chair of North Korea Freedom Coalition in Washington.

The government’s warnings against anti-North Korea activity appear to be an attempt to appease the North. Moon, who remains determined to complete his quest to sign a peace treaty with Kim Jong Un, could be thinking that curbing defector activity could help diplomacy and burnish his legacy.

“The South Korean government may hope that this would placate the North Korean regime and create the space for Seoul to make inroads into inter-Korea cooperation,” said Soo Kim, a policy analyst at the RAND Corp. “But allowing North Korea’s deeds to go unpunished only emboldens Kim and gives Pyongyang greater leeway.”

[UPI]

The ruling Kim clan and the big socialist family

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The ruling Kim clan is known in North Korea as the “Mount Paektu bloodline,” a reference to the mountain on the country’s border with China where North Korea claims Kim Jong Il was born and his father fought the Japanese.

“In many regards, North Korea is similar to the European societies of late medieval and early modern days. It is essentially a monarchy,” says professor Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, in which family members are more trusted than other elites.

That bloodline is what allows the youngre sister of Kim Jong-Un, Kim Yo Jong, to rise so high in North Korean politics, despite a bias against women in power in a country where traditional attitudes are summed up in the Korean maxim “If the hen cries, the household will be ruined.” The saying, used in both Koreas, suggests that when women speak up or take charge, no good will come of it.

“The North Korean system is fundamentally patriarchal,” says Lim Soon-hee, an expert on women in North Korea. “The government tells the people that they form one big socialist family,” she adds. The father of this metaphorical family, she explains, is Kim Jong Un. The mother is the ruling Workers’ Party. The children are the North Korean people. And the father’s authority is unchallenged.

Lim believes Kim Yo Jong’s most likely future role is not that of successor but, instead, a regent or caretaker until Kim Jong-Un’s son is old enough to take over. (Lim says Kim Jong Un reportedly has three small children who are too young to rule.)

Even if Kim Yo Jong were to take power, Lim argues, North Korea’s conservative military would never accept it.

“Kim Yo Jong herself would not hope to be a successor, although she may have a strong will to acquire greater practical power,” Lim concludes. “She is smart enough to know that it wouldn’t be easy for a woman.”

[NPR]

How far can Kim Yo Jong rise through the ranks?

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Kim Yo Jong was still in her 20s in 2011 when her father, Kim Jong Il, died and her brother Kim Jong Un took power. Her debut on the international stage came in 2018, when she acted as a special envoy at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and met with the country’s president, Moon Jae-in.

Kim Yo Jong became the first vice director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Her political star has risen steadily since her brother took power, leading to speculation that she could one day become the country’s first female ruler. But while there are plausible reasons for her recent elevation, analysts say, the traditional patriarchal nature of North Korean society will likely prevent her from advancing higher up the ranks.

But the younger sister’s rise to what many now see as the de facto No. 2 position in the Kim regime has historical precedent and political logic behind it.

“There is nothing unusual about, say, a sibling of the current leader to be his second in command. It’s actually a very well-established tradition of the Kim family,” says professor Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul. He notes that Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father, was assisted by his sister during his rule in the 1990s.

Kim Yo Jong’s new role was necessitated by her brother’s disappearance this spring, Lankov says, apparently because of an unknown illness. (By one estimate, Kim Jong Un has made only seven public appearances from April through June, compared with 46 in the same period last year.)

“This makes it more necessary for him to have a trusted deputy,” Lankov says. “And this person has to come from, if you like, the royal family, and in the ruling clan, they have now a shortage of adults.”

[NPR]

Kim Yo Jong rising through ranks with tough rhetoric

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“Rip apart the defectors, the traitors and the human trash,” demonstrators wearing masks and standing in neat rows shouted at rallies in North Korea last month, aiming to signal dismay at South Korea for allowing defectors to send propaganda leaflets, often floated on balloons, over the border to criticize North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

While government-organized demonstrations are not unusual in the North, one notable feature of these rallies is that they echo the harsh rhetoric of Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, 32. She is believed to be in charge of the campaign against the defectors and their leaflets.

“She’s gone from being her brother’s proxy to his protocol assistant, to his eyes and ears, to a punisher,” comments Kim Seung-chul, a defector who runs the Seoul, South Korea-based North Korea Reform Radio, which broadcasts news into the North.

At the Kim-Trump summits in Singapore and Vietnam, Kim Yo Jong appeared to act as her brother’s personal assistant, holding his pens and ashtrays. On other occasions, she has been seen watching her brother’s public events from the sidelines. She has also reportedly managed her brother’s public image as an official in charge of propaganda.

Recently, her rhetoric has recently grown harsher. In a statement, she assailed North Korean defectors as “human scum little short of wild animals who betrayed their own homeland.”

Since first meeting him in 2018 she described Moon, the South Korean president, as an “insane” man who put his neck in “the noose of the pro-U.S. flunkyism.”

[NPR]

North Korea’s hot and cold strategy

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Alternating between raising tensions and ​​extending an olive branch​ — all to confuse the enemy — has been part of North Korea’s dog-eared playbook. ​This geopolitical strategy has long been compared to dipping alternately in pools of scathingly hot and icy cold water in a public bathhouse.

​Just a week ago, Kim Yo-jong, the only sister and key aide of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, threatened to ​kill the country’s agreement​s​ with South Korea that were intended to ease military tensions along the border. ​She called the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, “disgusting” and “insane.” Then the North blew up the joint inter-Korean liaison office, the first of a series of actions that threatened to reverse a fragile détente on the Korean Peninsula.

On Wednesday, her brother Kim Jong-Un emerged as the good cop, overruling his military and suspending i​ts plans to ​deploy more troops​ and resume military exercises along the world’s most heavily armed border. Hours later, South Korean border guards confirmed that the North Korean military had dismantled loudspeakers installed on the border in recent days as part of its threat to revive propaganda broadcasts against the South.

If the flip-flop seemed disorienting, that was exactly the effect North Korea intended. Over the decades, ​alternating between raising tensions and ​​extending an olive branch​ has been part of the North’s dog-eared playbook​. ​Mr. Kim’s grandfather Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founding president, proposed reconciliation with South Korea even as he prepared to invade the South to start the 1950-53 Korean War. His father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, discussed co-hosting the 1988 Summer Olympics with South Korea before North Korean agents planted bombs on a Korean Air Boeing 707 in 1987. The plane exploded near Myanmar, killing all 115 on board.

When the move is toward peace, the change of tack is so dramatic that North Korea’s external enemies often take the shift itself as progress, even though there is no evidence that the country has decided to abandon its nuclear weapons.

[New York Times]

Defying government ban, defectors group launches anti-North-Korea leaflets

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 A group of North Korean defectors claimed Tuesday it had sent anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border, continuing an activity that has enraged the North regime, which cited it as the reason it wrecked a liaison office with the South last week. The launch was also in defiance of a ban by South Korean authorities on the cross-border propaganda campaign.

Park Sang-hak, who heads Fighters for a Free North Korea, said the group sent 20 large helium-filled balloons, carrying 500,000 leaflets titled “The truth of the Korean War atrocity,” 2,000 $1 bills, 1,000 SD cards and 500 booklets across the border. He said they sent the flyers in a covert mission at night with relatively new members, to avoid police detection.

The balloons are attached to a bundle of leaflets and a large banner with pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his influential sister Kim Yo-jong, as well as their grandfather and regime founder Kim Il-sung, and a slogan that calls on the North Korean people to rise up against the Kim family.

The Seoul government has warned of a “thorough crackdown” against campaigners sending anti-North leaflets, and vowed to enact legislation to ban such activities.

[Korea Herald]

North Korea blows up inter-Korea liaison office

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North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office building just north of the heavily armed border with South Korea on Tuesday in a dramatic display of anger that sharply raises tensions on the Korean Peninsula and puts pressure on Washington and Seoul amid deadlocked nuclear diplomacy.

The demolition of the building, which is located on North Korean territory and had no South Koreans working there, is largely symbolic. But it’s still likely the most provocative thing North Korea has done since it entered nuclear diplomacy in 2018 after a U.S.-North Korean standoff had many fearing war.

The liaison office was opened in 2018 as the first channel for full-time, person-to-person contact between the Koreas.

This development will pose a serious setback to the efforts of liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in to restore inter-Korean engagement.

[AP]

Kim Jong Un’s sister threatens military action with South Korea

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South Korea convened an emergency security meeting Sunday after the sister of North Korea’s leader threatened military action against South Korea in the latest escalation of tensions between the two neighbors.

Kim Yo Jong, a trusted aide to her brother, Kim Jong Un, said she would leave the right to take the next step of retaliation against South Korea to North Korea’s military in a statement carried Saturday by the state news agency, KCNA.

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Kim, who has gained new prominence in North Korea’s power structure, didn’t specify what the next action could be or when exactly it would be taken, but she added: “I feel it is high time to surely break with the South Korean authorities. We will soon take the next action.”

A spokesman for the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, said Sunday that the national security council held an emergency video conference to review the situation and to discuss how best to respond.

Kim’s statement Saturday followed her announcement last week that North Korea was suspending all communication lines with South Korea, a move analysts believe could be an attempt to manufacture a crisis and force concessions from its neighbor.

Kim Jin Ah, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, a government research center in Seoul, said North Korea is using propaganda leaflets distributed by defectors as an excuse to break “the doldrum” in its negotiations with the U.S.

Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a lecturer in international relations at King’s College London, said it’s reasonable from the North Korean perspective for the regime to try to divert attention from domestic conditions by raising tensions with South Korea. “It makes sense for Kim Yo Jong to lead, or be seen as leading, these increasing tensions. This way she can show that she will be tough with South Korea if necessary,” he said.

[NBC]

The role of defector activists in North Korea’s communication shutdown

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North Korea has cut all communication channels with South Korea as it escalates its pressure on the South for failing to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across their tense border.

This decision was made by Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Chol, a former hard-line military intelligence chief who Seoul believes was behind two 2010 attacks that killed 50 South Koreans.

South Korean conservative activists and North Korean defectors in the South for years have floated huge balloons into North Korea that carry leaflets criticizing Kim Jong Un over his nuclear ambitions and abysmal human rights record. The leafleting has long been a source of tensions between the Koreas since the country bristles at any attempt to undermine the Kim leadership.

KCNA referred to North Korean activists as “riff-raff” in their statement: “The South Korean authorities connived at the hostile acts against (North Korea) by the riff-raff, while trying to dodge heavy responsibility with nasty excuses,” KCNA said. “They should be forced to pay dearly for this.”

Kim Yo Jong called the defectors “human scum” and “mongrel dogs” in reaction to recent leafleting when the North threatened to permanently shut down a liaison office and a jointly run factory park, as well as nullify a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement that had aimed to reduce tensions.

South Korea’s liberal government had no immediate response to the North Korean announcement. It has recently said it would push for legal bans on launching leaflets, but the North has said the South Korean response lacks sincerity.

South Korean conservatives have urged their government to get tougher on North Korea and uphold their constitutional rights to free speech. South Korea has typically let activists launch such balloons, but it has sometimes sent police officers to stop them when North Korean warnings appeared to be serious.

[AP]