Kim Yo Jong is taking a hard-line against South Korea as part of efforts to expand upon her “revolutionary achievements,” a key measure of leadership in the country, a high-level government official in North Korea recently told Daily NK.

“She can’t rule the country from the military like her brother [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un], so she is expanding her authority through the Propaganda and Agitation Department, just like her father [Kim Jong Il],” the source said on June 14.

In fact, Kim Jong Il solidified his role as the successor to his father by being promoted through the ranks within the Propaganda and Agitation Department.

Kim Jong Un, on the other hand, attended the Kim Il Sung Military University from 2002 to 2007 to better learn about his country’s military. As part of efforts to prepare him for the succession, he was called a “general of the Korean People’s Army” in Sept. 2010 – a year before his father died. Later, Kim further solidified his status as his father’s successor by commanding a military unit.

Kim Yo Jong is a woman and lacks a military background, which means she has had to gain political power in other ways. Daily NK’s source in the country said that Kim has focused on gaining “revolutionary achievements” through activities focused on South Korea that can be sold as “war-like” victories to the North Korean people.


North Korean moved to further expand Kim’s “revolutionary achievements” after her brother experienced health problems in April. While it is forbidden for anyone in North Korea to assume that the Supreme Leader will die or to even prepare for such a possibility, Daily NK’s source said Kim Jong Un himself felt a need to prepare for such a scenario.

In fact, when Kim Jong Il experienced health problems in 2008, he reportedly took measures to quickly ensure a succession plan was in place.

North Korean authorities now reportedly feel the need to quickly beef up Kim Yo Jong’s revolutionary achievements to promote her authority within the North Korean communist party and other organizations, including the Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League. This explains why Kim Yo Jong has taken such a hard-line stance toward South Korea so suddenly.

After Kim released a statement criticizing activists for sending leaflets over the 38th Parallel, she released another statement a day later promising to shutdown the inter-Korean liaison office. On June 9, North Korea informed South Korea that it would now treat the South as “an enemy.” Three hours after that statement was released, the country shutdown all communication lines with the South.

In a statement released on June 13, Kim further upped the ante by suggesting that her country could engage in unspecified provocations against South Korea.


South Korean activists have long sent leaflets over the 38th Parallel in North Korea. This time, however, North Korea quickly used the leaflets as a pretext to take a hard-line stance against the South. The quick shift to a hard-line stance seems to show how anxious North Korean authorities are.

“[Kim Yo Jong] is a member of the Paekdu bloodline so she can expand her power without the need for permission from other officials or organizations, but she needs to achieve something right now that will give her support from the entire people,” the source told Daily NK. “The authorities are focusing on promoting [Kim Yo Jong’s] achievements to party members, members of the military and the people to prevent revolutionary elders from causing any trouble.”

“Revolutionary elders” are key members of the communist party, military and other government agencies who acknowledge Kim’s authority to hand down ideology-based orders, but believe she does not have the experience to manage the intricacies of state affairs.


Several high-level government officials in North Korea told Daily NK that the Propaganda and Agitation Department’s moves to expand Kim’s authority are not aimed at setting her up as a successor to her brother.

These high-level officials believe that the only successor to Kim Jong Un is his 12-year-old son. Kim Yo Jong, in their view, is simply expected to stabilize the country’s affairs until the son can take over. In their eyes, Kim is playing the traditional role of an “empress dowager” who takes control of state affairs until a younger prince comes of age.

Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, is actively supporting the expansion of his sister’s authority in the country. Kim has praised his sister as being the most knowledgeable about his own way of thinking and intentions and is focusing on promoting her achievements.

North Korea’s hard-line stance toward South Korea is expected to continue given that inter-Korean conflict is one way the country justifies cracking down on domestic unrest.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to

Read in Korean

Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to