N Korean leader's sister granted official post

N Korean leader's sister granted official post

North Korea revealed the job title of Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of its leader Kim Jong-un, on Thursday, calling her a deputy director of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, a post equivalent to vice minister.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency mentioned her specific title for the first time, while reporting that she had accompanied her brother on a visit to an animation film studio in Pyongyang.

Her title indicates that she has become part of the nucleus of the communist state's power structure, and that she plays a central role in supporting her brother's management of state affairs, observers said.

The KCNA did not specify which department of the party she belongs to.

Also accompanying the dynastic ruler at the film studio were several senior officials in charge of the party's propaganda activities such as party secretary Kim Ki-nam ― a reason why analysts presume that Yo-jong may be a deputy director of the propaganda department.

But Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the think tank Sejong Institute, said that Yo-jong could also be a deputy director of the party's organizational guidance department given that she used to appear in public alongside some senior officials of that department.

Kim Yo-jong, thought to have been born between 1987 and 1989, is the youngest daughter of late strongman Kim Jong-il and was born to Ko Yong-hui, his third wife and the mother of the current third-generation ruler. Yo-jong and her brother went to the same school in Switzerland in the late 1990s.

In March, the North Korean media first mentioned her name alongside other top elites such as Hwang Pyong-so, the director of the North Korean military's General Political Bureau. Observers have long speculated that she might have taken a vice minister post.

As Yo-jong is Jong-un's only sister and shares the leader's dynastic pedigree, keen attention has been paid to what role she would play to support her brother. As the health of Kim Kyong-hui, the leader's only aunt, is failing, Kim Yo-jong's political role is expected to increase, analysts said.

Speculation has persisted that the North Korean ruler may be grooming his sister to take a supporting role in place of Kim Kyong-hui, who took up a deputy director position at age 30 in 1976 and later became a four-star general and party secretary.

Amid a flurry of rumours about her health, Kim Kyong-hui has been removed from the public eye for about a year. Some say she has already died of a terminal disease, while others say that she has been in a vegetative state. She is thought to have suffered from various illnesses including depression, cancer, dementia and heart disease.

As for the marital status of Kim Yo-jong, the US-funded Radio Free Asia raised speculation last month that she might have married a senior official of Room 39, an agency that maintains the dictatorial ruler's foreign currency slush funds.

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