Kim Yo-jong: North Korea's most powerful woman and heir apparent?

Kim Yo-jong
In recent years, Kim Yo-jong has become a key figure in Pyongyang's opaque architecture of power.
She is the younger sister of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and the only one of his siblings who is considered a close and powerful ally.
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Kim Yo-jong first gained international attention in 2018 when she was the first member of the Kim dynasty to visit South Korea. She was part of the delegation to the Olympic Winter Games, in which North and South competed against one another as a team.
After the subsequent thaw in 2018, she worked with her brother when he made his way to international diplomacy and met South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Chinese Xi Jinping and, above all, US President Donald Trump.
The close relationship with her brother and her increasingly leading positions in the political apparatus brought her back into focus in April 2020, when Kim Jong-un seemed unusually absent from public events.
When Mr. Kim's temporary disappearance in April raised questions about his health, she was touted as one of the successors.
Rumors about Kim Jong-un's illness are disputed by South Korea
Ms. Kim's role was first strengthened in October 2017 when she was promoted to the powerful Politburo. Previously, she had been influential as the vice director of the propaganda and agitation department - a role that she probably still holds and in which she works on her brother's public image in the country.
Ms. Kim was involved in her brother's diplomatic talks, here with Moon Jae-in from South Korea
Ms. Kim is also on the US sanctions list for alleged links to human rights violations in North Korea. This means that US citizens are not allowed to conduct transactions with her. All real estate and assets in the U.S. would be frozen.
How powerful is it?
It is known that it is difficult to understand the mechanisms of power in North Korea, so it is difficult to estimate how much of her own political network Kim Yo-jong has.
Rumor has it that she is married to the son of Choe Ryong-hae, the powerful party secretary and Kim Jong-un's deputy. If that is true, it would give it significant status.
Oliver Hotham of NK News told the BBC: "Given that she is a 30-year-old woman - a population group that usually does not have much power in North Korea - most of her influence is based on who her brother is. "
More recently, she has been responsible for delivering several strongly worded messages against the south and, according to NK News, has emerged as North Korea's new point of contact for inter-Korean affairs.
In June, Kim Yo-jong threatened to send troops to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on the inter-Korean border, partly because of Pyongyang's anger at Seoul's failure to prevent activists from sending regime-dependent leaflets across the border.
She also warned that the inter-Korean liaison office near the border town of Kaesong in the north, from which Pyongyang retired in March 2019, would "collapse".
Days later, on June 16, a loud explosion was heard in Kaesong and smoke rose from the area. Officials in Seoul confirmed that the office that the South Korean government had allocated nearly $ 8 million (£ 6.3 million) for the renovation had been demolished.
What is the Kim family bloodline?
If it is necessary to find a successor for Kim Jong-un, family ties are crucial.
The country's propaganda and political mythology have for decades emphasized the so-called Paektu bloodline, which goes back to the founder of the state, Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong-un is believed to have children, but they are young.
Given that Ms. Kim is a member of this bloodline, it should be easy for the state media to justify a change of power in her hands. But this bloodline also means that any new leader would see her as a dangerous rival if she wasn't selected.
"If no other member of the Kim family takes command, things will be very easy for them," said Fyodor Tertitskiy from Kookmin University in Seoul. "Either she takes the Supreme Leader's coat or loses all power and possibly her life."
Where does it fit in with the ruling family?
Kim Yo-jong is the youngest daughter of the late leader Kim Jong-il. She shares the same mother as Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-chol, the brother who is believed not to be very senior in the political power system.
She was born in 1987 and is four years younger than her brother Kim Jong-un. The two lived and studied in Bern at the same time.
The two are the youngest children of the late Kim Jong-il
School officials in Switzerland said she was overly protected by the group of guards and caretakers. She was reported to have had a mild cold once and was immediately removed from school and taken to the hospital.
She was reportedly raised and most members of the Kim family did not interact with her much.
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What is she doing?
Since 2014, Kim Yo-jong's main role has been to protect her brother's image and play a key role in the party's propaganda department. When she was appointed a deputy member of the Politburo in 2017, this seemed to indicate a shift in seniority, although her main role remained in propaganda.
She is said to have managed all of his public appearances and acted as a political advisor.
When the Hanoi summit in 2019 did not lead to an agreement with the United States, it was assumed that the Politburo downgraded it a little - and it was only in early 2020 that it was re-admitted to this body.
Before 2014, she was only sporadically in the spotlight and appeared at her father's state funeral in 2011 and at her brother's election in 2014. Ms. Kim was occasionally seen with her brother in state media images.
However, it is believed that a top leadership job was cut out for them as early as 2008 during succession planning when Kim Jong-il's health deteriorated.
Her role as a potential successor to her brother has surfaced every time there is uncertainty about Kim Jong-un.
Just like April 2020, there were similar rumors in 2014 when Kim Jong-un disappeared from the public eye to reappear in good health, albeit with the help of a walking stick.

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