The absence of Kim Yo Jong’s name from a new lineup for the party’s powerful Politburo has triggered rumours that the sister’s political clout has diminished. But political observers from the South think the contrary.
Pyongyang bestowed Kim Jong Un the title of general secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party — a title formerly held by his late father and grandfather — and reconfirmed his leadership, state media reported this week.
The designation, in addition to his other titles of Chairman and Supreme Leader, was apparently aimed at boosting Kim’s authority amid the country’s economic challenges.
The announcement was made on Sunday during the Eighth Party Congress meeting in the capital — the first ruling party congress since 2016. Around 7,000 selected members of North Korea’s nine-million-strong Workers Party have gathered in Pyongyang since January 5.
“Kim Jong Un’s power has strengthened in the nine years that he has been in power since the sudden death of his father. This gives him the same status (as his father) … the dictatorship has been consolidated in form and title,” Lee Seong-hyon from the South Korean think tank The Sejong Institute said.
North Korea has still not authorized access for foreign journalists to the congress and proceedings have been communicated through the release of video and still images on state media.
Kim Yo-jong demoted?
Among the notable personnel changes announced at the meeting on Monday was the name of Kim Jong Un’s sister. Kim Yo Jong was missing from a new lineup for the party’s Central Committee Politburo, where she had served as an alternate member since last year.
Previously, the influential sister had been ever-present at Kim’s side for his landmark summits with Trump as well as at meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
But Kim Yo Jong retained her membership in the party’s Central Committee,