Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Pyongyang watchers and ROK media are closely examining images of a young woman in her twenties photographed standing behind Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) as he received mourners at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace on 21 December. In footage broadcast on Korean Central TV, the woman is seen standing behind Jong Un, to the left of funeral committee members Yang Hyong Sop (Yang Hyo’ng-sop) and Kang Sok Ju (Kang Sok-chu). Immediate speculation points to the woman being Kim Yo Jong (Kim Yo’-cho’ng), Jong Un’s younger sister and KJI’s youngest known offspring.
Ms. Kim was observed at a commemorative photo session after the 3rd Party Conference in September 2010. She also attended a May 2009 visit with her father to Wo’nsan Agricultural University where she posed for a commemorative photo with Jong Un, their older brother Kim Jong Chol (Kim Cho’ng-ch’o’l) and Party Secretary of Publicity and Information [Propaganda] Kim Ki-nam. The visit to the school was a significant event in the early phase of Jong Un’s succession campaign. At that time, KJI was introducing his son to key elites and the internal security services had commenced education and indoctrination efforts in support of KJU.
Chosun Ilbo reports:
A person believed to be the younger sister of the successor to the North Korean leadership appeared on state TV on Wednesday. The woman, clad in black traditional costume, was spotted weeping behind Kim Jong-un as he greeted mourners at Kumsusan Memorial Hall in Pyongyang where dead leader Kim Jong-il lies in state.
An intelligence source said, “She looks slimmer than in the photos we have of her, perhaps because she’s been crying a lot, but our analysis confirms she is Kim Yeo-jong (24).”
Kim Jong-il had two sons and one daughter with his third wife Ko Yong-hui. The elder son Jong-chol (30) was passed over for the leadership because his father reportedly thought him effeminate, but Yeo-jong apparently remained in her father’s favor.
Yeo-jong is said to work in the powerful organizational Department of the Workers Party. An intelligence official said, “Kim Jong-il ousted all his brothers in a power struggle, but gave his sister Kim Kyong-hui the position of party chief and member of the party’s political department. Kim Jong-un will probably give Yeo-jong a title too.”
Others believe the woman spotted in the North Korean Central TV broadcast on Wednesday is Kim Jong-un’s wife. A source familiar with North Korean affairs said, “We have been hearing rumors that Kim Jong-un married a woman from Chongjin who graduated from Kim Il-sung University.” But a government source said, “Talk that Kim Jong-un got married is just a rumor. It is unimaginable that they would expose a secret wife to the North Korean public on state TV.”
Meanwhile, Kim Ok (47), a director of the National Defense Commission who was Kim Jong-il’s de facto fourth wife, was spotted on TV weeping in front of the body and bowing to Jong-un. North Koreans do not know she was Kim Jong-il’s wife.
When Kim Yo Jong attended the commemorative photo session of 3rd Party Conference participants, she was seen standing along side Kim Jong Il’s 5th (some would say 4th) wife Kim Ok. Kim Ok was observed in KCTV coverage visiting KJI’s bier and bowing to Kim Jong Un. She was part of a group of officials from KJI’s Personal Secretariat, and she was preceded in the receiving line by Jon Il Chun (Cho’n Il-chun), section chief of Office #39. Mr. Jon was prominently seen in attendance at KJI’s last reported public appearance at the Kwangbok supermarket.