Kim Yo-jong: From 'princess' to 'twisted sister', North Korea's No.2 is prepping to don brother Kim's mantle
Following widespread reports late in April that North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un had fallen gravely ill, and possibly suffered a heart attack, there was one name that kept making the rounds as a potential successor: that of his sister, Kim Yo-jong.
While outward appearances paint the picture of a woman who is a very dependable right-hand man for her brother — she represented North Korea in an official capacity for the 2018 Winter Olympics and was by his side at summits with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China — sources say she's being primed to take over the hermit nation should any ill befall the current 'Supreme Leader.'
She might be known to many in the country as 'Princess,' but is said to be slowly building a reputation that does justice to her other, lesser-known nickname: 'Twisted Sister'.
It was reportedly Kim Yo-jong who was behind an operation that saw a joint liaison office for both North Korea and South Korea get blown up last week as part of a newly aggressive stance North Korea is adopting against its neighbors.
"From what I’ve observed she is cold and ruthless and haughty," Suzanne Scholte, the American founding co-chair of Free North Korea Radio and president of the Washington DC Defense Forum, told the New York Post.
"Her new aggressiveness is part of the consolidation and solidification of power. Kim Jong-un has to show that if something were to happen to him, there’s a successor and that the Kim family … bloodline is still in power."
Kim Yo-jong had slammed South Korea's leader Moon Jae-in last week and said his speech calling for peace on the Korean peninsula was "sickening". She said that, while he appeared to be "normal outwardly," he "seems to be insane".
She went on to slam the anti-regime propaganda leaflets that have been regularly launched into North Korea by defectors and other US allies via balloons and said those responsible for the ploy were "human scum" and "mongrel dogs."
In the aftermath of her impassioned rant, North Korea promised to flood "leaflet bombs of justice" to "terrorize" the south and said the country had amassed a pile of leaflets "as big as a mountain" that would help them follow through with their threat.
Experts are saying that Kim Yo-jong, who seemed to have fallen out of favor following a disastrous Hanoi summit in 2019 that ended with no sanctions lifted against the country, is now back in the mix with the top personnel.
David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel and North Korea expert, opined that this new aggressive strategy is not something she is doing of her volition and had likely been approved by Kim Jong-un.
"There is no No. 2 in North Korea but she is acting like a No. 2," he said. "It’s very unlikely she could be doing this on her own. Kim must have given her the authority. That provides him with options for the future."
While North Korea remains very much a patriarchal society, Kim Yo-jong's gender is not expected to be a problem in the scenario she does ascend to 'Supreme Leader,' said Sean King, an Asian specialist at Park Strategies. "She’s fierce and formidable and I don’t think her gender is an issue at all."