Flurry of reports speculate sister of Kim Jong-Un poised to replace him

by WorldTribune Staff, April 22, 2020

Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun and other news outlets reported on April 22 on the possibility of Kim Jong-Un’s sister, Kim Yo-Jong, taking over as supreme leader should an emergency regarding the North Korean leader’s health arise.

Recent rumors and reports have called into question Kim Jong-Un’s health. Government officials in the United States and South Korea have emphasized such reports are unconfirmed.

Kim Yo-Jong greets U.S. President Donald Trump as her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, looks on during the second U.S.-North Korea summit in February 2019 in Vietnam. / Yonhap

Kim Yo-Jong, who accompanied Kim Jong-Un to his two summits with U.S. President Donald Trump, was reportedly reinstated to the party’s powerful politburo earlier this month, according to the state Korean Central News Agency, Geostrategy-Direct.com reported in its April 21 issue.

The Daily NK earlier reported that Kim is said to be recovering from cardiovascular surgery at a local villa. The report also said Kim has been in poor health due to “heavy smoking, obesity and overwork,” according to a translated version of the Daily NK’s report, citing an unnamed source.

Citing sources from South Korea, U.S. and Japan, the Yomiuri reported that North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party had made a decision late last year during a general assembly of the party’s central committee to focus “all authority” on Kim Yo-Jong if her brother became unable to rule due to unforeseen circumstances or his death. The Japanese report added that, since then, many instructions and statements have been issued in her name.

Last month, as the world was grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, Kim Yo-Jong made her first public statement. In it, she condemned South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after Seoul protested against a live-fire military exercise by the North.

Also in March, Kim Yo-Jong publicly praised Trump for sending Kim a letter in which Trump said he hoped to maintain good bilateral relations and offered help in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Geostrategy-Direct reported that the publication of political statements in Kim Yo-Jong’s name underlines her central role in the regime. Youngshik Bong, a research fellow at Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul said: “It is revealing that Kim Jong-un permitted her to write and announce a scathing statement about South Korea in such a personal tone. He is clearly ready to allow his sister to become his alter ego.”

Kim Yo-Jong also has not escaped the attention of U.S. officials, who in 2017 placed her and other North Korean officials on a blacklist for “severe human rights abuses.”

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