With North Korean leader Kim Jong-un rumored to have died after complications from heart surgery earlier in April, many eyes have moved to his sister as the next in line. Kim Yo-jong has been by her brother's side the past few years during high profile encounters, including the leader's meetings with President Donald Trump.
The 31-year-old is seen as "No. 2" by the Workers' Party according to The Daily Beast. This sets her up as a "visible heir" to the nation's leadership and a representation of authority at the top, with her role in the Organization and Guidance Department boosting her potential strength.
But what can we expect if Kim Yo-jong takes power? Will we see the brutality and oppression continue? What about the ongoing talks with the United States and other nations over North Korea's nuclear ambitions?
A lingering question is how will she be accepted by the older, male political leaders if she is made to be the leader? Nothing is certain within the country if Kim Jong-un is truly deceased or unable to continue leading. But Kim Yo-jong has one thing that other successors lack within the nation. She is a full member of the Kim family, the rulers of DPRK since its inception.
To learn what thienation may look under the 31-year-old, it is important to look at what she has done and her rise within the government. Scroll down to learn more.
Kim Yo-jong was born in 1988 to former DPRK leader Kim Jong-un and wife Ko Yong-hui. Like her brother, Kim Yo-jong spent time studying in Switzerland beginning in 1996 until 200 before returning to North Korea.
Close to Brother
Her relationship with her brother was solidified during this period according to 38 North, noting that their upbringing was defined by "social and emotional isolation." They were also brought closer through the shared-tragedies they experienced, including the death of their parents and the defection of their maternal aunt in 1998.
Catching Flies With Honey?
Kim Yo-jong has been noted as the driving force behind many of North Korea's more elaborate and public moves with Kim Jong-un. She made a public debut with her appearance alongside Vice President Mike Pence at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but her influence extends beyond that moment. She reportedly has been the main supporter of her brother's "man of the people" image and has urged him into meetings with the United States and his friendship with NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. She also was key in the North reaching out to the South during her Olympic appearance according to The Daily Beast.
"She has advised on key events in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, encouraging construction of modern apartments, ski slopes, even an amusement park, but it was during those Olympics that she shone as a major figure before the world," The Daily Beast writes. "It was then, at a luncheon meeting in the Blue House, the center of power in South Korea, that she gracefully handed the South’s President Moon Jae-in a handwritten note from her brother suggesting they get together for a summit."
Power isn't in question when it comes to Kim Yo-jong and her role in the government. Her rise through positions of authority likely has a lot to do with her lineage, but it is also representative of her talents. In 2014 she reportedly took over state duties from her brother while he underwent a medical procedure, similar to the current situation. She was also connected to the Propaganda and Agitation Department within the Workers' Party, moving up from there to become a major part of the nation's diplomatic efforts with South Korea and the United States.
The question is will others recognize that power from a woman.
Clash of the Kims?
Nothing is guaranteed for the 31-year-old. Other possible names could rise to take the role of leader in the nation. Kim Jong-il's paternal half brother Kim Pyong-il could stand a successor or some sort of "political guardian" for young Kim according to National Interest. He could also become part of a collective leadership that steps in, especially during any transitional period. Still, some don't believe the nation would support her rule.
"She has great power to control the North Korean elite, but if Kim Jong-un is out or dies, she cannot continuously keep power,” he says. "North Korea doesn’t accept woman’s power," North Korean defector Ken Eom told The Daily Beast. "This means, if Kim Jong-un dies, at the same time Kim Yo-jong also will be out, too."
So as it stands, nobody officially knows anything. Kim Jong-un is only reported to be dead or brain dead. He could also recover and return as a leader once he recovers, similar to his 2014 situation. The other item up in the air is if new leadership would bring any changes to the nation.
As Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute says to The Daily Beast, it isn't likely to see Kim Yo-jung loosen her family's grip on the nation or change direction. "I would not expect her to pull a Gorby," Eberstadt says in reference to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his reforms at the collapse of the USSR.