31 August 2020

CNN: “North Korea’s Kim Jong Un delegates some powers to sister Kim Yo Jong”

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told the country’s lawmakers that Kim Jong Un’s decision to transfer more power to his younger sister further bolstered the argument that she is now the country’s “de-facto second in command”, but does not take away from the fact that Kim Jong Un is still the ultimate authority and exercises “absolute power”, according to the office of Representative Kim Byung-kee, who attended the NIS briefing.

Speculation about Kim’s health was rampant earlier this year after the North Korean leader, who historically has kept a grueling schedule filled with public appearances, disappeared a handful of times from the public eye, sometimes for weeks on end without an official explanation. Kim also reportedly keeps a very unhealthy lifestyle – he is overweight, supposedly both a heavy smoker and drinker and is often under stress.

Kim Yo Jong for years has been one of her brother’s most important aides and confidants, so questions about Kim Jong Un’s health naturally led experts to focus on her.

Joshua Berlinger & Jake Kwon

After this year’s game of Presidential hide-and-seek in North Korea, I think the key question might be: will North Korea have a woman leader before the United States?

Kim Yo Jong, center, arrives at the Jinbu train station in Pyeongchang, South Korea
Kim Yo Jong, center, arrives at the Jinbu train station in Pyeongchang, South Korea on February 9, 2018

In a very 2020 twist of events, according to recent reports the sister has now gone missing, with her last public appearance on July 27. It would unfortunately not be the first time when Kim Jong Un removes one of his family members from the power game – maybe he suddenly felt threatened by his sister’s rise in prominence inside the regime. As very little genuine information leaks out of North Korea, it is hard to form a clear picture, but we should probably expect other sudden changes in the coming months.

Though she has been absent from state media in recent weeks, Kim’s star has steadily risen this year. North Korean state media framed her as the architect of Pyongyang’s decision to blow up an office used for dialogue between the two Koreas – a bombastic statement of North Korea’s displeasure with South Korea.

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