There’s a new face in North Korea’s top decision-making body.
Kim Yo Jong, the youngest daughter of late leader Kim Jong Il and sister of current head of state Kim Jong Un, was named as a member to the Workers Party’s Politburo, the country’s highest political assembly, at a Central Committee meeting on Saturday, the BBC reports. Kim Yo Jong, who replaced her aunt Kim Kyong Hui, a powerful ally of her father, was already a senior official as vice-director of the isolated regime’s Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD), according to North Korea analysis group 38 North.
Kim Yo Jong, 30, is believed to be one of Kim Jong Un’s closest aides and confidantes: the two share a mother, and reportedly lived together while studying at a boarding school in Berne, Switzerland. She is believed to be married to the son of powerful party secretary Choe Ryong Hae, and frequently appears alongside her brother at public events.
She featured prominently at her father’s funeral in 2011, and participated in the closely-watched 7th Party Congress (WPK), the first keynote assembly of party, political, and military officials held under Kim Jong Un, and after after a 36-year hiatus. Kim Yo Jong was among seven North Korean officials targeted with U.S. sanctions in January 2017 for “ongoing and serious human rights abuses and censorship activities.”
Kim Yo Jong’s elevation has helped to solidify Kim Jong Un’s position by further concentrating power within his inner circle and immediate family members, according to analysts at 38 North. Her promotion to the PAD Department’s top post in 2015 was also interpreted by North Korea-watchers as an effort to consolidate the young leader’s power, South Korean outlet Daily NK reported at the time. Among her chief responsibilities at PAD were “idolization projects” that promoted the regime’s personality cult. She is also thought to be responsible for Kim’s public image.
Saturday’s reshuffle involved dozens of top officials, including the promotion of Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol — two key figures in the country’s missile program, and Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho was elevated to a full vote-holding position on the Politburo, Reuters reports.
Last month, Ri Yong Ho called President Donald Trump “President Evil” in his address at the U.N. General Assembly and likened his threats to “the sound of a dog barking” — the latest in an escalating war of words that has seen Trump refer to Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” and threaten to “totally destroy” the reclusive state.