Buried at the bottom of an official North Korean report published Thursday about Kim Jong Un’s visit to an animation studio, after the praise for the artists and the insight that cartoons are popular worldwide, was a rare kernel of real information.
Accompanying North Korea’s “supreme leader” to the studio were a bunch of apparatchiks including “vice department director” of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s central committee, called Kim Yo Jong. And with that, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister had arrived.
With so much intrigue surrounding the reclusive first family in the world’s most isolated state, the news was catnip for Kiminologists. Steel yourself, this post contains a lot of Kims.
Thought to be 26 or 27, Kim Yo Jong made her first public appearance at the funeral of Kim Jong Il, her father and North Korea’s second generation leader, at the end of 2011.
She was first mentioned by name in March, when she went with Kim Jong Un to vote for the Supreme People’s Assembly, the rubber stamp parliament. She has since been seen from time to time at political events with her brother, often together with his wife, or accompanying him when he gives “on-the-spot field guidance”.
But Thursday’s report marked the first time Kim Yo Jong had been given an official title in the world’s only communist dynasty, one that is now in its third generation.
In photos accompanying the report, she was shown wearing a khaki jacket in the same military hue favored by their father, who was fond of an olive green jumpsuit. Unlike her brother, she is slender.
She was also carrying a notepad and pen, like the other senior officials who take down the Supreme Leader’s pearls of wisdom.
Kim Jong Un, thought to be 31, and his younger sister were born to Kim Jong Il’s fourth wife, Ko Yong Hui.
In the spring of 1996, Kim Yo Jong joined her elder brothers Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol at boarding school in Berne, Switzerland, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, before returning to Pyongyang at the end of 2000.
According to Chinese and South Korean reports, Kim Yo Jong is the youngest in the family and is believed to have been born in 1987. She studied at Kim Il Sung University and apparently speaks English and French.
Since graduating, she has reportedly worked as a secretary for her brother, and has ties to the Guard Command and Ministry of State Security, NK Leadership Watch reported.
Sisters have been important to North Korean leaders. Kim Jong Il counted his sibling, Kim Kyong Hui, as a valuable aide and promoted her husband, Jang Song Taek, up through the ranks.
But blood is barely thicker than water in North Korea. Kim Jong Un had Jang, his reportedly charismatic and somewhat capitalist uncle, executed late last year for a variety of charges including treason.
Unverified reports this week claimed that Kim Kyong Hui – who herself had got a number of plum posts in the leadership, once running the ministry of light industry and even becoming a four-star general – killed herself shortly after by drinking poison.
The Kims have ruled North Korea through an all-consuming personality cult like no other since Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, was appointed North Korea’s leader by Josef Stalin shortly after the end of World War II.
Portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il adorn every office, classroom, home and even train carriages in North Korea, and citizens of the repressive state must wear badges showing at least one of the leaders over their hearts.