Category: Kim Yo Jong

Kim Jong Un expresses ‘condolences’ over coronavirus outbreak in South Korea

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a personal letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to express his condolences over a soaring viral outbreak, Seoul officials said Thursday.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Kim’s letter was an attempt to improve strained ties with South Korea amid a deadlock in broader nuclear diplomacy with the U.S. Earlier this week, Kim’s sister issued insults against Moon’s presidential office in her first official statement.

In his letter to Moon on Wednesday, Kim conveyed a message of comfort to the South Korean people over the cornonavirus outbreak that has infected more than 6,000 people and killed 37 others in the South. Kim said he was worried about Moon’s health and expressed frustration that there wasn’t much he could do to help South Korea at this moment, senior presidential official Yoon Do-han told reporters. Kim “underlined his unwavering friendship and trust toward President Moon and said that he will continue to quietly send his best wishes for President Moon to overcome” the outbreak, Yoon said.

Kim also expressed his “candid thoughts and opinions” about the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, Yoon said, without providing details. Moon sent Kim back a letter on Thursday conveying his gratitude to him, Yoon said.

Moon and Kim built personal ties in 2018 when they met three times and reached a series of agreements aimed at boosting exchanges and lowering military animosity. Moon, a liberal who espouses a negotiated settlement of the North Korean nuclear crisis, also facilitated Kim’s first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in 2018.

North Korea has repeatedly said there have been no cases of the virus on its soil, a claim that is questioned by many outside experts.

[TIME]

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, slams South Korea in 1st-ever statement

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The sister of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un​, attacked South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday, calling it idiotic a day after the South denounced the North’s first weapons test this year.

Kim Yo-jong, Mr. Kim’s only sister, also serves as one of his closest aides. She helped arrange the first summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in 2018, visiting Seoul with her brother’s letter of invitation.

On Tuesday, in the first​-ever​ statement​ issued under her name, Ms. Kim heaped scorn on South Korea, another sign that relations between the North and South have chilled since the collapse of a second summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump​ in February last year​.

On Monday, North Korea conducted its first weapons tests this year, which involved large-caliber rockets. Mr. Moon’s presidential Blue House, called Chongwadae in Korean, ​immediately ​blamed North Korea for raising tensions. ​ In her statement on Tuesday, Ms. Kim​ said the South had no right to criticize the North’s test when it conducts its own exercises, whether alone or together with the United States. “Such incoherent assertion and actions made by Chongwadae only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole​,” she said, according to the English translation by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency​. ​“It is us who have to express ​’strong regret​’ at such incoherent and imbecile way of thinking of Chongwadae​.”

Ms. Kim did not attack South Korean President Moon by name. But she said that if South Korea “is set to get down to doing anything with us, it had better be more brave and fair and square.”

[The New York Times]

The many faces of Chairman Kim Jong Un

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At the recent December 2019 plenum, Chairman Kim, rather than giving his traditional New Year’s speech, outlined a different strategy toward the US … a return to a combination of military and economic development, and the requirement for the people to tighten their belts during a period of prolonged sanctions. Kim’s strategic shift … offers clues as to his evolving leadership style, intentions and flexibility as he begins his ninth year in power.

The most tempting explanation would be that Kim has returned to his earlier byungjin policy, combining an emphasis on both economic as well as military development. … And observers might thereby be forgiven for assuming that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and that Kim is a mere replica of his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung. But such thinking risks missing the nuances of Kim’s leadership style, and how he continues to evolve and mature as a strategic leader.

Kim shares his grandfather’s and father’s ruthlessness, legacy of human rights abuses, single-minded obsession with power and self-preservation, cult of personality and fierce devotion to the ideals of one-party rule, juche (self-sufficiency) and national pride. … He has shown a side similar to his grandfather in his famous onsite inspection visits—jovially hugging employees, smiling, back-slapping and posing for selfies. In this sense, both he and his grandfather are different from Kim Jong Il, who rarely spoke publicly and only traveled to Russia and China.

Kim’s differences from his father and grandfather are a measure of his youth, diplomatic talent, style, trust in his wife and his sister (both of whom have traveled internationally with him) and ability to think and act more strategically, rather than impulsively.

His impatience may be a function of external political pressures (particularly from the military) rather than a mere reflection of his personality. Certainly, after his 2019 New Year’s speech … Kim has shown restraint and patience. He has not tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or resumed nuclear testing—nor is he likely to do so, although a public “display” of a new ICBM or ballistic missile submarine is not out of the question.

Kim remains an aspirational leader, even as the DPRK’s diplomacy is likely to shift—given the replacement of Ri Yong Ho and appointment of Ri Son Gwon (a military hardliner and protégé of Kim Yong Chol) as foreign minister—to a more muscular, hard-nosed version. And Kim, rather than acting impulsively to provoke an unpredictable President Trump, has surely taken measure of America’s current impeachment drama, the upcoming American presidential election, and Trump’s recent show of resolve with respect to the killing of Iran’s Quds Force leader General Soleimani, as well as the signing of the China trade deal. Kim is patiently waiting—with a tendency to avoid unnecessary political risks—knowing that, if Trump were to serve another four years, time is on his and the DPRK’s side.

[Excerpts of 38 North commentary]

Sister of Kim Jong-un makes appearance at mass games

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While attending North Korea’s Mass games, leader Kim Jong-un openly criticized his country’s “irresponsible work attitude”.

Apart from this, in attendance at the opening of the games was Mr Kim’s sister, who had not been seen publicly in nearly two months.

Kim Yo-jong has over the past two years become an close aide to her brother and was part of his diplomatic mission during the two US-North Korea summits in Singapore and Hanoi. She has been absent from the public eye before, but her recent absence was by some observers linked to the failure of the negotiations with the US. Reports suggested that Kim had ordered his sister to keep a low profile after the failure of his recent nuclear summit with Donald Trump.

There were reports last week that several of North Korea’s top officials had been purged or possibly even executed after the Hanoi summit. One of them has since reappeared in photos alongside Mr Kim, while the other’s fate remains unclear.

With none of the reports verifiable, analysts have to read official photos and seating patterns for clues as to who might have fallen out of favor. For example, some suggest Kim Yo-jong appears to no longer be member of the Politburo, as some official photos show her too far from Kim Jong-un to still be part of that powerful body.

Kim was also accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol-ju, along with senior North Korean officials.

[BBC/Guardian]

Kim Jong Un’s sister rushed off her feet on Vietnam trip

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Ready with an ashtray at a railway station, taking away gifts of flowers and giving directions to staff, Kim Yo Jong has been rushed off her feet as personal secretary to her brother and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

Kim Yo Jong, who holds the title of vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party, came to the world’s attention at the Winter Olympics in South Korea a year ago, when her big smile and relaxed manner made her a hit with many south of the DMZ.

But it was been non-stop for her on the trip to Hanoi, trailing her brother during his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, her hair neatly half swept back in trademark fashion, making sure everything goes like clockwork.

After Kim’s train rolled into the Vietnamese border station of Dong Dang, Kim Yo Jong was the first person to emerge, alongside protocol chief Kim Chang Son. She appeared at one point to slightly push aside Kim Yong Chol, the leader’s chief nuclear envoy and top aide, as she sprinted from the train towards her brother and took welcome flowers from him.

When Kim Jong Un signed an agreement with Trump after their first summit in Singapore last June, he ditched a pen sterilized by his security officials in favor of one offered by his sister.

“It is most fascinating because we see her discharging technical and hygienic tasks on one hand, but she also has to fulfill certain ceremonial tasks as one of the visiting VIPs,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea leadership expert at the Washington-based Stimson Centre’s 38 North think tank.

The Kims’ keenness on cleanliness is rooted in the era of their late father, Kim Jong Il, when immaculateness was key and sanitizers were widely used, Madden said.

Experts also say the use of a personal ashtray or pen in particular is intended to prevent the ruling family’s DNA being collected by foreign governments. “The paranoia about medical intelligence involved Kim Jong Il, so the security units may have continued the policy with his son,” Madden said.  

Since her debut on state media in December 2011, Kim Yo Jong has quickly climbed the leadership ladder. She was named as an alternate member of the party’s all-powerful politburo in late 2017 as her brother draws his most important people closer to the center of power.

[Reuters]

Top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol visiting US

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One of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s top officials is traveling to the United States and will meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the two countries lay the groundwork for on-again, off-again talks between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

Once he touches down on American soil, Kim would be the most senior official to visit the United States since 2000.

Kim Yong Chol and Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, have been two of the most visible and important players in Pyongyang’s push for rapprochement with South Korea and the United States this year.

Kim Yong Chol is the vice chairman of North Korea’s Party Central Committee, and is Kim Jong Un’s top official in charge of relations between North and South Korea. He’s often pictured with the North Korean leader and attended his two recent meetings with South Korea’s President Moon at the DMZ that divides the two Koreas.  Kim Yong Chol was also part of the delegation from the North that traveled South in February for the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, a decision that surprised many considering he was believed to have masterminded the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors while serving as North Korea’s top intelligence official.

[CNN]

North and South Korean leaders again meet to discuss how to make Trump-Kim summit a success

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed their hopes for a U.S.-North Korea summit at a previously unannounced meeting, South Korean officials announced. The two leaders met for two hours Saturday and “frankly” discussed how to make the U.S.-North Korea summit a success, the presidential Blue House said.

President Trump canceled his meeting with Kim on Thursday, though he later said both sides are “having very productive talks with North Korea about reinstating” it, leaving the door open for further negotiation. This came after several roller-coaster days in which Trump canceled the summit, set for June 12 in Singapore. Moon was blindsided by Trump’s decision to abruptly announce he was canceling the summit, less than a day after returning from meeting in the Oval Office.

Moon and Kim met at Panmunjom, the truce village in the demilitarized zone and the site of their first meeting in April. The two met on the northern side of the line. The North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong awaited Moon’s motorcade on the north side of the demilitarized zone. Once he arrived, he shook hands with Kim Yo Jong and walked down a red carpet as members of the North Korean military saluted. Moon then walked inside and shook hands with Kim Jong Un and posed for a photo.

The two leaders also discussed a successful implementation of the inter-Korean “Panmunjom Declaration.” The two signed the three-page agreement at their earlier meeting, stating that “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” officials said Saturday.

[Washington Post]

Kim Jong Un’s wife afforded new title and level of respect

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Ri Sol Ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been afforded a new title in the country’s state media, a move that analysts say could signal an evolution in the power structure of the reclusive country.

Referred to in a KCNA report as the “respected First Lady,” paired with an honorific reserved for respected members of society, the title is a step up from the usual “comrade” that she had previously been afforded.

“In North Korea, nothing is accidental. Each move is choreographed for a reason,” Troy Stangarone, Senior Director, Korea Economic Institute, told CNN. “The elevation of Ri’s status … helps to strengthen the Kim family’s status in North Korea, but also changes the international perception of the regime.”

The wives of North Korea’s two previous leaders, Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather, have generally not been given the same status as that accorded to other leaders’ spouses around the world, Stangarone said.

Ri’s new title places her “more within Western norms and helps remove some of the old communist vestiges of the past,” Stangarone said.

He added that Kim’s decision to send his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February was another sign that the ruling family is intent on changing the optics around its power structure.

[CNN]

Kim Jong-un ‘moved’ by K-pop peace concert in Pyongyang

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was deeply moved by a concert in Pyongyang featuring South Korea artists, the North’s state news agency KCNA reports.

It said the leader’s heart had swelled when he saw the North Korean audience respond enthusiastically to the performances of famous K-pop groups. He said the musical exchange was a significant occasion giving the appearance of a united country.

The North had sent performers to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year, followed by the first South Korean musical delegation to visit North Korea in more than a decade. The South Korean music delegation, which combines K-pop, rock and other genres, is set to perform again on Tuesday.

Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, pose for photos with visiting South Korean musicians

Kim Jong Un is the first North Korean leader to attend a performance by an artistic group from the South, said South Korea’s official news agency, Yonhap. His wife Ri Sol-ju, and his sister Kim Yo-jong and the country’s nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam are also said to have attended.

Meanwhile, one of North Korea’s top officials, Kim Yong-chol, has apologized to South Korean reporters who had hoped to cover the performance after all but one were barred from entering the Grand Theatre, South Korean Yonhap news agency reports. “It was wrong to hinder the free media coverage and filming,” he said, in what Yonhap reported as “a rare apology”.

[BBC]

South Korea to send envoy to North Korea

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in is sending a special envoy to North Korea, following Pyongyang’s successful participation in the Winter Olympics.

It appears to be in direct response to a personal invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered by his sister Kim Yo Jong during her visit to the South for the Games last month.

Moon doesn’t seem to be preparing for a personal trip above the demilitarized zone (DMZ) just yet, but sending an envoy to Pyongyang would be an important first step.

Multiple North Korean officials met with their South Korean counterparts before Kim’s Olympic trip last month in the first face-to-face meetings between the Koreas in almost two years in January.

Concerns about the Trump administration’s policy towards Pyongyang were also raised this week with the departure of Joseph Yun, the top US State Department for North Korea, who was widely seen as a voice for diplomatic engagement in contrast to the increasingly hawkish National Security Council.

[CNN]