North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has reportedly promoted his sister to a role running the country’s state security apparatus.
According to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, 30-year-old Kim Yo-jong’s seated position next to her brother’s right-hand man Choe Ryong-hae during December’s Worker’s Party congress indicates she is now in charge of the State Security Department, which oversees police and state prosecutions.
“Judging by her seat, there is a possibility that she has been promoted,” a South Korean government source told the outlet.
Kim’s uncle Jang Song-taek previously held the position controlling state security. He was executed by the regime in 2013 over allegations including distributing pornography, corruption, and plotting to overthrow the regime. He was allegedly killed by being fed to starving dogs.
Following his death, decision-making was put under the control of senior party officials, but a source said that it has since been “revived and established as an independent entity.”
Relatively little is known about Kim Yo-jong, who is the daughter of the late dictator Kim Jong-il and his second mistress Ko Yong-hui. Observers believe she has a close relationship with her brother, with the pair both attending a secluded boarding school in Switzerland for their education.
Such a promotion would strengthen her position as one of the country’s most powerful women. She is regularly seen at events alongside her brother’s wife Ri Sol-ju and has reportedly played an important role in the regime’s propaganda machine which seeks to portray her brother as a strong and benevolent leader.
Persistent rumors claim that Kim Yo-jong held administrative powers when her brother fell ill and took a leave of absence back in 2014, while last October she became only the second woman in North Korean history to join the Communist Party politburo.
Kim Jong-un’s older half-brother Kim Jong-nam was murdered last year in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur after being attacked with a chemical weapon. Having once been the heir apparent to the Kim dynasty, he eventually fell out of favor and became an occasional critic of, with his murder now widely believed to have been ordered by the North Korean government.
The regime, which remains committed the aggressive expansion of its nuclear program, surprised South Korea on Wednesday by broadcasting a message calling for a “breakthrough” in relations between both countries that “promote contact, travel, cooperation between North and South Korea.”