North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Additional Photos of Kim Jong Un’s Mother Released

Ko Yong Hui (3rd L) shakes hands with female KPA service members in an image from a documentary film produced about here. Seen in the background (2nd L) is Gen. Pak Jae Gyong, who has long been tied to internal publicity efforts in support of Ko, and (background, 2nd R) VMar Hyon Chol Hae (Photo: Korea Documentary Film Studio/KCNA, RENK/Daily NK)

Photos and film footage of Ko Yong Hui (Ko Yo’ng-hu’i), Kim Jong Il’s former consort and Kim Jong Un’s mother, have surfaced in South Korean media.  KBS obtained a copy of The Great Mother of Military-First (Songun) Korea,  an 80-minute documentary on Ko’s life produced by the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP].  According to the Yonhap News Agency, KBS plans to air the film, which it acquired in Japan, on 1 July 2012.  Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun published still images derived from the film in early June.  Daily NK obtained a copy of the film from Japanese organization RENK and published a number of images from the film.  DPRK leadership expert Cheong Seong Chang told Daily NK, “The North Korean system has dynastic origins. In a dynastic state, authority comes from bloodline. Koh Young Hee must be elevated to the status of ‘queen’, or ‘the nation’s mother’, in order for Kim Jong Eun to become a legitimate ruler.  The official succession has been completed, so they are moving from absolutism and the individual right to rule to the legitimacy of his bloodline.”

In the images and film footage released, Ko is seen traveling with Kim Jong Il on military inspections (including a visit to the command element of the Korean People’s Army Navy) and visits to factories, as well as caring for Kim Jong Un when he was a child.  Based on the released images, the film treats Ko Yong Hui as a core member of the central leadership.  In one image she is seen sitting in a plush folding chair, traditionally reserved for Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il (and now her son); in several images she is wearing a pair of customized Ray Ban-type sunglasses highly similar to KJI’s famous frames.  There are a number of current members of the central leadership in attendance at events with KJI and Ko including Jang Song Taek, Kang Sang Chun, Kim Ki Nam, Kim Kyong Ok, Gen. Ri Myong Su, Gen. Pak Jae Gyong, VMar Hyon Chol Hae, VMar Kim Yong Chun, Pak Myong Chol, as well as deceased central leadership figures Ri Yong Chol (former deputy director of the KWP Central Committee Organization Guidance Department) and VMar Jo Myong Rok (former National Defense Commission 1st Vice Chairman and director of the KPA General Political Department).

In images released from Great Mother of Military First Korea, Ko Yong Hui is depicted as a member of the DPRK’s core leadership. One subtle indication of her status is the chair she is shown using (top image). The sole recent exception to this practice was observed in film footage from October 2011 (bottom image, L) showing Jang Song Taek in a similar chair.

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