The rumors that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is in a coma — and his recent public appearances were all faked — has fueled questions about the future leadership of the Hermit Kingdom.
One potential successor is Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who recently became his “de facto second-in-command,” according to South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service.
But like most members of North Korea’s highly secretive ruling clan, little is definitively known about Kim Jo Yong.
Here’s some of the information that’s trickled out of the highly repressive, totalitarian nation, where unofficial communication with the outside world has been forbidden for seven decades:
Kim Yo Jong is the youngest child of late dictator Kim Jong Il
Kim Yo Jong is the fifth, and youngest, child of Kim Jong Il, son of North Korea’s founder and first dictator, Kim Il Sung, according to a family tree compiled by the Brookings Institution think tank.
Her mother was Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer and Kim Jong Il’s consort.
Kim Yo Jong is believed be around 32 years old, with varying reports saying she was born in 1987, 1988 or 1989.
She studied in Europe and North Korea
Like her three brothers, Kim Yo Jong attended school in Bern, Switzerland, during the 1990s and lived in a house overseen by a high-ranking North Korean official, which was staffed with servants and bodyguards, according to the North Korea Leadership Watch website.
While there, she used the alias Pak Mi Hyang and took ballet lessons, according to the Washington Post.
She’s believed to have returned to North Korea in late 2000 after completing the US equivalent of sixth grade and to have later earned a degree in computer science from Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang.
She may be married with two kids
Kim Yo Jong was photographed wearing a wedding ring on New Year’s Day 2015 and some reports say her husband is the son of Choe Ryong Hae, president of the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly and her brother’s second-in-command.
Other reports say she may be married to a former university classmate or to a man with an “ordinary background” in a match arranged by Kim Jong Un to prevent her husband from posing a threat to his power.
Kim Yo Jong is believed to have given birth to her first child around 2015 and reportedly revealed she was pregnant again during a 2018 visit to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
She has been gaining power in the regime
In 2002, Kim Jong Il reportedly said his daughter was interested in politics. Kim Yo Jong was then appointed a junior cadre in her Communist country’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in 2007, according to North Korea Leadership Watch. From there, she has steadily risen from obscurity to power in the regime.
Kim Yo Jong is said to have helped plan her brother’s hereditary succession after their father suffered a series of strokes in 2008 — and state media showed her leading senior party members to bow before his casket in 2011.
Following her brother’s ascendancy, she has often been seen with him in public — and in 2017 she was added to a US Treasury Department blacklist for her alleged role in “severe human rights abuses” as an official in the North Korean government.
Before Kim Jong Un’s 2019 summit in Vietnam with President Trump, Japanese TV recorded her holding an ashtray for her powerful older brother at a train station in China.
Earlier this year, Kim Yo Jong took on a public role as a government spokesperson, which has included calling South Korea a “frightened dog barking” in April for opposing a live-fire military demonstration.
Will Kim Yo Jong succeed Kim Jong Un?
Despite the regime trying to quash rumors about Kim Jong Un’s ill health — by releasing new photos that purportedly show him leading a recent meeting of his party’s politburo — speculation has run rampant about the despot ceding his power to his younger sister.
The siblings do have an older brother, Kim Jong Chul, however, he’s reportedly not interested in politics and not considered a likely successor — leaving the ambitious Kim Yo Jong a credible option.
But if the rumors are true and Kim Yo Jong does emerge as Kim Jong Un’s successor, North Korea expert Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said she could be an even tougher leader.
“She may prove herself fiercer and more tyrannical than her brother, father, or grandfather,” Lee previously told The Post.
Her path to power could, however, be blocked by her uncle, Kim Pyong Il — the only known surviving child of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung — who returned home last year after decades abroad as a diplomat.
She has inspired fancams and anime
Following the first reports of Kim Jong Un’s ill health in April — when it was rumored he was near death after undergoing heart surgery — some Twitter users began posting “fancam” video clips of Kim Yo Jong.
“We STAN a dictator Queen,” one user wrote, using a slang term for liking something to the point of obsession.
Anime artists also created a series of memes featuring Kim Yo Jong as a hypersexualized “waifu” — internet slang for an attractive fictional female character — including ones that feature her brother saying “MY LITTLE SISTER CAN’T BE A DICTATOR” or “MY DICTATOR CAN’T BE THIS CUTE!”
New York Post
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