North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong’s power play
Rocketman better watch out. His kid sister, nicknamed “Princess” in North Korea and sometimes referred to as the “Twisted Sister,” is now acting more like the Terminator.
Kim Yo Jong, all regal cheekbones and icy glare, ordered a joint liaison office for both North and South Korea blown up last week as part of an aggressive charge against South Korea — and by extension the United States.
She also slammed the leader of South Korea and threatened military action in a sudden seizing of power that may or may not be authorised by her big brother.
Some wonder if she is the Hermit Kingdom’s new power player, and want to know her endgame.
“From what I’ve observed she is cold and ruthless and haughty,” said Suzanne Scholte, the American founding co-chair of Free North Korea Radio and president of the Washington DC Defense Forum.
“Her new aggressiveness is part of the consolidation and solidification of power. Kim Jong-un has to show that if something were to happen to him, there’s a successor and that the Kim family … bloodline is still in power.”
Once described only as her brother’s close aide, one who would fetch him a crystal ashtray while he smoked, Kim Yo Jong has made herself a force to be reckoned with almost overnight in Pyongyang.
“There is no No. 2 in North Korea but she is acting like a No. 2,” David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel and North Korea expert, told the Post.
“It’s very unlikely she could be doing this on her own. Kim must have given her the authority. That provides him with options for the future.”
She’s young and female, but talk that North Korea would never accept a woman leader is untrue, some say.
“She’s fierce and formidable and I don’t think her gender is an issue at all,” Sean King, an Asian specialist at Park Strategies, told the Post.
King said women run the powerful black markets in North Korea despite the country’s rep as a rock-solid patriarchy. It’s the mystical Mount Paektu bloodline that matters, he said, even though it’s based on a lie.
Kim Yo Jong, who was educated at posh Swiss schools like her brother, lives in the luxurious and fortress-like palace compound in Pyongyang, reportedly with her high-ranking political official husband Choe Song. They are believed to have a 5-year-old daughter. Her brother has a place there as well, although he prefers his Mar-a-Lago-style compound in the seaside resort town of Wonsan.
Kim Yo Jong represented North Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympics held in South Korea and she was at her brother’s side at summits with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China. She reportedly fell out of favour after the disastrous Hanoi summit in 2019 ended abruptly without any sanctions lifted — but has clawed her way back to power.
Kim Yo Jong slammed the South’s leader, Moon Jae-in last week, saying it was “sickening to listen to his speech” calling for peace on the Korean peninsula.
“He seems to be insane, though he appears to be normal outwardly,” she fumed.
She also railed against the anti-regime propaganda leaflets long launched into North Korea in balloons organised by defectors and their US allies and called the perpetrators “human scum” and “mongrel dogs.”
On Friday, North Korea said they would flood “leaflet bombs of justice” to “terrorise” the south in retaliation. North Koreans have amassed a pile of leaflets “as big as a mountain,” state news agency KCNA reported Friday.
Even veteran observers of North Korea aren’t sure if Kim Yo Jong’s sudden coming-out is more proof that the roly-poly Rocketman is on his last legs — he was last seen publicly on May 1 — and needs to groom his sister as successor, or if the two of them just want to keep the West guessing.
Insiders say that Kim is under tremendous pressure from the old men who help him run North Korea because he hasn’t managed to get UN sanctions lifted.
“It could be part of a deception strategy,” Maxwell said. “He’s sitting back watching us speculating. Remember this is all about the sanctions and North Korea is taking aim at the south to pressure them to intervene with Washington.”
This story was first published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission.