Kim Yo Jong, the Marshal Kim Jong Un’s younger sister and the youngest child of the General Kim Jong Il, has recently gained significance within the hierarchy of the Worker’s Party of Korea, most notably with her first officially attributed statement. She had previously come to prominence with her leading role in the lead up to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic discussions with culminated in teams from the north and south competing together as a single unified Korean team.
Since then, speculation has grown about her position within the party and government as well as her close ties to her brother, the Marshal Kim Jong Un. So, as speculation mounts, now is a good time to ask; who is Kim Yo Jong?
Early Life & Career
Kim Yo Jong was born and raised alongside her brothers Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol. In 1996, she moved to Bern, Switzerland for her education where she joined her two brothers. Media speculation about the early life of the Marshal began in 2012 when he came to power – reports about the children’s time in Switzerland is now widespread.
She reportedly studied, at least for a time, at Kim Il Sung University, the most prestigious university in the country where she began to show a keen interest in politics as well as reportedly studying computer science.
The 2010 Worker’s Party of Korea conference was called to amend the party charter. The third item on the agenda was the election of new officials to central organs of the WPK. Kim Yo Jong appeared alongside attendees at the meeting, marking her first foray into frontline party politics having worked alongside her father, the General Kim Jong Il, for a few years preceding the conference. Kim Yo Jong was seen alongside her brother, the newly appointed Marshal Kim Jong Un, at her fathers funeral in 2011.
Sometime between 2011 and 2014, Kim Yo Jong was elected to the Worker’s Party Central Committee as she was described by WPK newspaper ‘Rodong Sinmun’ as a ‘Senior Official from the Central Committee’ when she joined her brother to vote in the 2014 Supreme People’s Assembly elections.
Rise to Frontline Politics
Kim Yo Jong held numerous positions between 2014 and 2018 as she ascended through the political ranks. By 2018 she was reportedly an alternate member of the politburo, the chief policy making organ of the Worker’s Party, and held the state position of vice-Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department.
She first grabbed global attention when she became the first member of the Kim family to cross the border into South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang winter Olympics alongside Ri Son Gwon, then-head of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, and current Foreign Minister. News outlets reported how she expertly outflanked the US representative, Vice-President Mike Pence, and organised an effective charm offensive which led the way to a thawing of relations. During her trip she delivered a letter to the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, which kickstarted diplomatic talks and led to the 2018-19 détente.
Kim Yo Jong was elected as a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly in the 2019 elections. She represents the district of Killimgil for the Worker’s Party of Korea. In March 2020, she released her first official statement in which she likened South Korea to a barking dog after they protested against live-fire military drills conducted by Pyongyang.