Kim Yo-jong: The woman behind Kim Jong-un's success

Kim Yo-jong: The woman behind Kim Jong-un's success

Kim Yo-jong has made few public appearances so far (Credit: KCNA)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

After years of speculation, the most powerful woman in Kim Jong-un's life is about to emerge into the spotlight.

No, it's not his wife Ri Sol-ju, the reticent First Lady, but his sister Kim Yo-jong, who is taking on a major diplomatic mission on the leader's behalf.

Kim Yo-jong is to visit the Winter Olympics in South Korea on Friday (February 9), and is to be the first member of her brother's immediate family to go beyond the border on an official trip.

For many, this may be the first they've heard of the leader's sister, who became a senior Workers' Party official last year as part of the politburo, the highest decision-making body in the country.

She was previously the vice-director of the propaganda and agitation department. It is reported that in this role she was the manager of any public appearance made by Kim Jong-un and also advised him.

Given this history of service, it's easy to understand why is credited by many as being the driving-force behind creating the image of the North Korean leader, said to be modelled on his grandfather Kim Il-sung.

Kim Yo-jong is also thought to be the inspiration behind the current leader's friendship with former NBA star Dennis Rodman, as well as the brains behind his visits to people's houses, theme parks and schools.

The woman is the youngest daughter of Kim Jong-il, the father of the present leader, and it is thought that she was born in 1987 to his mother Ko Yong Hui - unlike some of their other siblings, who have different mothers.

Her family political ties don't end with the North Korean leader, however; it is believed that she's married to the son of party secretary Choe Ryong-hae, and that the couple had a child together in 2015.

As you'd expect not much is really known for certain about Kim Yo-jong, but according to North Korea leadership expert Michael Madden she's been described as being a little bit tomboy-like, but also sweet and good-natured.

Reports claim her upbringing was sheltered, even from her own family, and she used to have guards with her when she was in school. Even a simple cold, it said, resulted in a hospital visit.

It is thought that she attended a primary school in Switzerland, as Kim Jong-un did, where North Korean musicians were sent in order to stop her from becoming homesick. She also reportedly went to a European school and a university named after her grandfather, where she is said to have learned about computer science.

It's not clear what she did between finishing her education and becoming involved in the political leadership of the country. For most diplomats and mandarins, that 'in-between' period is a long and arduous process of learning and proving one's worth. Given her connections, however, it's infinitely possible Kim Yo-jong skipped this stage.

It is believed by many that she is one of the very few people Kim Jong-un can trust, and a think tank created by defectors from the country believes she was left in control of North Korea for a time in 2014 whilst her brother was said to be ill.

Despite making few public appearances and not being well-known across the world like her brother, America has blacklisted the woman for alleged ties with human rights abuse in her native land. This means Americans cannot conduct business with the woman and if she were to possess any US property or finances, they would be frozen.

Now, however, she is about to launch a charm offensive on behalf of her brother, and her country. In a week when women in politics have been celebrated as rarely before, it seems somewhat appropriate.