The Sister Who Said What She Thought

Kim Yeo Jung has been selected as a Party delegate for the upcoming Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference this coming 11th. As such, she is starting to look increasingly like the ‘new’ Kim Kyung Hee, Kim Jong Il’s sister and one-time close confidante.

Kim Kyung Hee was born in 1946, the only sister of Kim Jong Il. She is four years younger than he, the same difference as that which exists between Kim Jong Eun and Kim Yeo Jung.

After graduating from Kim Il Sung University in October of 1971, Kim, who was only 25 at the time, started her public activities within the Union of Democratic Women. In 1972, despite Kim Il Sung trying to dissuade her, she got married to Jang Sung Taek.

She entered Workers’ Party life in 1975 when she was appointed to the International Affairs Department of the Central Committee. She has been elected as a representative to the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Supreme People’s Assemblies, and in 1997 was appointed Director of the Light Industry Department, a position she continues to hold.

However, after being photographed at the September, 2003 11th Supreme People’s Assembly, she disappeared until June, 2009. Her whereabouts remain unclear, but it is said that she was drowning herself in alcohol because her relationship with husband Jang Sung Taek was going bad and daughter Jang Keum Song had committed suicide (in 2006), an act said to have been caused by her parent’s very refusal to allow her to marry a foreigner.

Nevertheless, Kim was the first woman granted the title ‘General’ of the People’s Army’ in September of 2010, and her political stature increased thereafter as she entered the Politburo. However, it is not her brilliant political stature that makes her charismatic; it is simply the fact that she is the only female Kim active in North Korean politics.

She was the only person who could speak her mind to Kim Jong Il, too. An ex-Workers’ Party cadre testified, “During Kim Jong Il’s time, Kim Kyung Hee was officially the head of the Light Industry Department, but in actuality she was his most loyal adviser. Among the cadres, we said that he would do whatever she wanted.”

It will be interesting to see whether Kim Yeo Jung follows such an elite path, and if so, how frankly she speaks.