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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Kim Yo Jong now in charge of North Korea’s diplomacy and security

  • October 29, 2021
  • , Nikkei Asia , 0:32 a.m.
  • English Press

YOSUKE ONCHI, Nikkei staff writer


SEOUL — Kim Yo Jong, a powerful North Korean official and sister to leader Kim Jong Un, is currently in charge of diplomatic and national security affairs, according to a report by South Korea’s top spy agency.


The assessment by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service, given to the National Assembly’s intelligence committee on Thursday, is based on Kim Yo Jong’s promotion to a seat on North Korea’s State Affairs Commission, a body that decides key national policies. A lawmaker on the committee disclosed the findings to reporters.


Kim has conducted 34 public activities this year, according to NIS analysis, doubling the 17 activities confirmed last year. She serves as her older brother’s surrogate when relaying messages to the U.S. and South Korea. The NIS said Kim advises on domestic affairs by gathering information in the provinces and reporting her findings.


Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un is concentrating on political activities geared toward tightening his grip on the regime, the NIS said. He has removed photos of deceased leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il — his grandfather and father, respectively — when holding official party meetings. The term “Kim Jong Un-ism” is starting to be used internally, according to the spy agency.


This year marks a decade since Kim Jong Un rose to power. It appears the 37-year-old leader is moving to establish his own separate ideology.


Kim, who weighed around 140 kg as late as 2019, has lost 20 kg, according to an NIS analysis using artificial intelligence. The agency also said there is no evidence to media-fueled rumors that the leader used a body double, based on super resolution analysis of facial images.


North Korea continues to experience a shortage of food and supplies after its border with China was closed due to the pandemic — and the country is also dealing with high inflation, according to the NIS. The North’s central bank is struggling to print money due to a lack of paper and ink.


Kim Jong Un has reportedly likened the situation to “walking on thin ice” and has ordered officials to secure food “to the last grain of rice.”


The imports from China by ship have increased since July. North Korea is apparently in talks with China and Russia toward resuming rail operations.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for a declaration that would formally end the state of war with the North. The Korean War closed with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.


However, North Korea has responded with preconditions for such a declaration, according to the NIS report. The regime has demanded that the South stop joint military exercises with the U.S., along with the lifting of sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council.


Concerning the coronavirus vaccine, North Korea is looking for assistance in getting Pfizer shots and is refusing vaccines made by China and Russia, the NIS said.

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