The younger sister of Kim Jong Un has reportedly become his de facto second-in-command and will be in charge of relations with the US and South Korea.
Kim Yo Jong, 32, is the North Korean leader’s only close relative with a public role in politics and recently led a new, tougher campaign to put pressure on Seoul.
The stress of managing state affairs prompted Mr Kim to recently delegate some of his powers to a select group of officials, including his sister, Seoul’s spy agency reported.
Image: Kim Yo Jong is currently serving as the first vice director of her brother’s political party
She is now said to be chiefly involved in shaping policies towards Washington and Seoul.
Ms Kim is currently serving as the first vice director of her brother’s political party, United Front Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and has been considered as his possible successor.
Reports of her new responsibilities come as Mr Kim, 36, announced his first five-year development plan with goals of improving North Korea’s power supply and agricultural and manufacturing production amid the country’s economic struggles.
Speaking at a meeting of the party’s decision-making central committee, the leader acknowledged economic “shortcomings” caused by “unexpected and inevitable challenges in various aspects and the situation in the region surrounding the Korean peninsula”.
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Experts claim the coronavirus pandemic derailed some of Mr Kim’s major economic goals after North Korea imposed a lockdown that significantly reduced trade with China and hampered the country’s workforce.
South Korean politician Ha Tae Keung said officials from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) insisted that Mr Kim’s rule over North Korea remains absolute.
There are no signs that Mr Kim is experiencing health problems or is grooming his sister as his successor, Mr Ha paraphrased NIS officials as saying.
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Last week, Mr Kim sacked his premier after an evaluation of the cabinet’s performance in economic policies, and also said the country was facing a dual challenge of fending off COVID-19 and repairing damage from torrential rain that lashed the country over the past few weeks.
Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said that due to coronavirus and flooding, North Korea may struggle to fully revive cross-border trade, especially if its weak healthcare system continues to raise concerns.
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Some experts claim the North is likely to avoid serious negotiations with the US over sanctions and denuclearisation steps before November’s election, since US leadership could change.
“By January, (Mr Kim) will know the result of the US presidential election so may update North Korea’s position on denuclearisation talks,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
He added that as the world focuses on grappling with the pandemic and contentious elections, the “Kim regime is advancing its nuclear, missile and cyber programmes for coercion, not just deterrence”.
Source : Sky News