Kim Yo-jong, the 28-year-old sister of dictator Kim Jong-un, has become only the second woman in Communist North Korean history to join the Politburo. The first was Kim Kyong-hui, who was likewise the sister of the dictator at the time, Kim Jong-il.
“Since she is a female, Kim Jong-un likely does not see her as a threat and a challenge to his leadership. As the saying goes ‘blood is thicker than water,’ Kim Jong-un thinks Kim Yo Jong can be trusted,” Moon Hong-sik of the Institute for National Security Strategy told Reuters.
Male relatives who might be a threat to Kim Jong-un have fared rather poorly of late, as his half-brother Kim Jong-nam was murdered with a neurotoxin in Malaysia.
For that matter, trailblazing female Politburo member Kim Kyong-hui has not been seen in public for a while. Reuters cites South Korean intelligence officials who believe “she is now in a secluded place near Pyongyang undergoing a treatment for an unidentified disease.” Her husband Jang Song-thaek contracted a terminal case of political inconvenience in 2013 and died after several dozen anti-aircraft shells were injected into his body in an unsuccessful attempt at treatment.
The UK Guardian portrays Kim Yo-jong as something of an image consultant for her brother, little seen in public until 2010 and never mentioned by state-controlled media until 2014. She’s become much more of a public presence since then, as she was appointed vice-director of party propaganda in late 2014.
“She, not Kim, is said to be the inspiration behind his visits to theme parks, schools and the homes of ordinary people, and his unlikely friendship with the former NBA star Dennis Rodman,” the Guardian reports.
Persistent rumors hold that Kim Yo-jong held administrative powers in her brother’s absence when he took ill in the fall of 2014. Her appointment to the Politburo is seen as Kim Jong-un moving to wipe away the last vestiges of his father Kim Jong-il’s regime, with Kim Yo-jong effectively becoming a replacement for her mysteriously ill aunt.
“The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Kim Yo-jong in January, alongside six other North Korean individuals, for supporting human rights abuses as well as other censorship activities in the isolated state,” CNBC notes.