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Who is Kim Yo Jong? What we know about the North Korean leader’s sister

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WATCH ABOVE: Kim Jong Un's sister is now one of North Korea's top policy makers – Oct 9, 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, will be part of the country’s delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. 

That makes her the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim Yo Jong, who is the youngest daughter of the late Kim Jong Il, is a key figure of the country’s ruling body, and was recently given a new position in the regime.

In October 2017, she was named as an alternate member of the politburo — the country’s decision-making body — within the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

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An expert speaking to Reuters at the time said the move indicates Kim Jong Un is moving people he trusts most to positions of power.

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“Since she is a female, Kim Jong Un likely does not see her as a threat and a challenge to his leadership,” Moon Hong-sik, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said.

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“As the saying goes, ‘Blood is thicker than water,’ Kim Jong Un thinks Kim Yo Jong can be trusted.”

Public information on Kim Yo Jong is limited. Here’s what we know:

Who is Kim Yo Jong?

Kim Yo Jong is said to be between 28 and 30 years of age.

Details on Kim Yo Jong are scarce, as were her public appearances during the reign of her father. Kim Yo Jong was publicly identified for the first time in February 2011, and made her debut in state media months later in December, at her father’s funeral.

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Since Kim Jong Il’s death, she’s been seen more often alongside her brother at public events.

Kim Yo Jong is believed to have studied in Bern, Switzerland in the late 1990s, Reuters reported, then at the Kim Il-sung University in North Korea.

People watch a TV news program showing Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 27, 2014. /Ahn Young-joon/AP

There were reports she married a classmate from the university, but it’s unclear who it may be. According to BBC News, there has been speculation that her husband is the son of Choe Ryong-hae, North Korea’s ruling party’s secretary.

Former position with the government

Kim Yo Jong’s new position isn’t her first key role under her brother’s leadership. In 2014, she was appointed to lead the party’s propaganda department, meaning she made decisions on the dictator’s public appearances and acted as a political adviser.

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The Guardian reports that the sister is responsible for crafting her brother’s public persona, making him appear more accessible than their father. Under her advice, Kim Jong Un has made appearances at theme parks, people’s homes and schools.

In 2014, when Kim Jong Un took a mysterious hiatus from public life, there were reports that Kim Yo Jong was gearing up to take control of the regime. 

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Details on her ‘alternate member of the politburo’ role

Kim Yo Jong replaced the leader’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, who was an influential part of Kim Jong Il’s team. These two women are the only known females who’ve been key members of the regime, according to Reuters.

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She’s one of the most well-known women in the patriarchal country, next to Kim Jong Un’s wife, who makes rare public appearances.

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According to The New York Times, she’s also the youngest member of the politburo.

By promoting Kim Yo Jong last year, it’s likely her brother is ensuring the family’s political dynasty stays intact, even if he’s unable to remain leader for some reason, the Times reports.

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Blacklisted in the United States

The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Kim Yo Jong and six other North Korean officials in January, citing “severe human rights abuses,” and attempts to conceal the regime’s “inhumane” behaviour against civilians. The leader’s sister was included in the list because of her position in directing the regime’s propaganda.

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Along with the United States, South Korea has also been critical of Kim Yo Jong, accusing her of “abusing power.”

— With files from Reuters, The Associated Press

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