get down? Pushed aside? The fate of Kim Jong Un’s sister is unclear

SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) Where is Kim Yoo Jong, the influential sister of the North Korean leader?

This is a question many of those who watch the isolated and nuclear-armed state wonder after it failed to appear in the newly released outfit Kim Jong Un of the country’s powerful Politburo in recent days.

Some say Kim Jong Un may have demoted his sister due to public policy failures. However, others believe he may be concerned about its rapid rise and growing fame as he tries to consolidate his local power in the face of mounting economic challenges.

Oh Jeong-seob, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said rumors that Kim Yoo Jong is her brother’s heir could be dangerous because “they raise the issue of Kim’s control of power and health within North Korea.” That is why, he said, Kim Jong Un is slowing her rise to power.

The development comes as a surprise because Kim Yoo Jong, who became an alternate member of the Politburo last year, was widely expected to gain a full membership in the bureau during the ruling Labor Party conference that ended Tuesday. Politburo membership is seen as essential for high-ranking officials hoping to thrive in Kim Jong Un’s government because he made major decisions at bureau meetings, including a 2013 move to execute his powerful uncle Jang Song Taek, and the 2012 purge of Military Commander Ri. Young ho.

When the eight-day convention, the first of its kind since 2016, opened last week, Kim Yoo Jong, believed to be around 32, sat on the leadership podium, standing among the elderly party cadres with an overwhelming majority of males. But when Congress announced the list of 30 alternate and full members of the Politburo on Monday, including 37-year-old Kim Jong Un, her name was not there.

Kim Yo Jong has not been purged or forced to leave politics, a fate that some officials met during Kim Jong Un’s reign, and she still maintains her membership in the Party Central Committee, which is also a high-ranking body. But when she issued a statement criticizing South Korea on Wednesday, state media described her as a “deputy director” of the party, a rank lower than her previous title of “first deputy director.”

Kim Jong Un urges his 25 million people to rally behind his leadership to overcome what he called “the worst” difficulties his country is facing. North Korea faced economic shocks linked to the Coronavirus, a series of natural disasters last summer, and ongoing US-led sanctions over its pursuit of illegal nuclear weapons. During the conference, Kim pledged to expand his nuclear arsenal and build a stronger self-reliant economy.

“The goal of the conference is to solidify Kim Jong Un’s leadership. If Kim Yo Jong had become a full member of the Politburo, all eyes would have been on her … It is possible that Kim Jong Un felt that was a burden,” Ko Young-hwan, former vice president of the Institute National Security Strategy, think tank operated by South Korean spy agency, he said during a TV news program on Monday.

Previously unknown to foreigners, Kim Yo Jong has risen politically since her brother inherited power after their father, Kim Jong Il, passed away in late 2011.

The present Kim family is the third generation of its family that rules North Korea, and their leadership is based on a cult of personality that was established after their grandfather Kim Il-sung founded the country in 1948. The legendary “Paektu” dynasty, named after North Korea’s holiest mountain inhabitant, allows Only for the immediate family members ruling the country.

Kim Yo Jong rose to international prominence after her brother’s high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with President Donald Trump and other world leaders in 2018 and 2019. In those meetings, her proximity to Kim Jong Un sparked speculation that she was serving as her brother’s chief of staff.

In South Korea, she built an image as a “messenger of peace” after attending the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, becoming the first member of the North Korean ruling family to visit the South.

Last year, it abruptly changed course by launching harsh rhetoric against South Korea and pressuring the United States to make concessions amid faltering nuclear diplomacy. North Korea’s state media said it was responsible for relations with South Korea, and outside experts speculated that it might take over US affairs as well.

In its Wednesday statement, South Korea criticized the provocation of North Korea by announcing that it had detected intelligence that North Korea held a military parade or rehearsal for such a show this week.

When unconfirmed global rumors about Kim Jong Un’s health spread last year, some observers said Kim Yoo Jong is next in line to rule North Korea if her brother becomes incapacitated. The South Korean spy agency later said it was the second official in North Korea but had not named her brother’s heir.

“It is possible that Kim Jong Un blamed his sister for the deteriorating (foreign) relations, as she has not achieved any breakthroughs in relations with the United States and South Korea,” said Kim Yeol-soo, an analyst at the South Korean Institute of Military Affairs.

Regardless of the apparent reason for her loss of the Politburo job, many experts say her political influence is likely to remain unchanged thanks to her direct association with the Paektu dynasty. There is also a feeling that Kim Jong Un could finally give her another high-ranking job.

Oh, the analyst, said Kim Yoo Jong is likely to be the second most powerful woman in North Korean history after Kim Sung Ay, the late second wife of Kim Il Sung.

Oh said, “Kim Yoo Jong can meet and talk to Kim Jong Un freely at any time … so we can’t help but say she has a tremendous influence.” “As she gets older, her roles will be bigger.”

But he added that her resurgence could end if she wanted more strength. “She has to be careful about that,” he said.

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