Kim Sul Song, Kim Jong Un’s older half-sister, has recently begun playing an important role in North Korea’s policy-making, a North Korea watcher has recently argued.
Kim Sul Song has an enormous amount of influence on North Korea’s policy decision-making process, North Korean Intellectuals’ Solidarity Director Kim Heung-gwang said recently in an interview with Radio Free Asia.
Although this does not necessarily mean there is “power-sharing” going on, it appears that she is providing the young leader with influential advice, Kim said, citing anonymous sources in the country.
Kim Sul Song is the eldest daughter of Kim Jong Il’s “official wife” Kim Yong Suk, and has been officially acknowledged as a granddaughter of Kim Il Sung’s.
Experts generally agree that Kim Sul Song has considerable status, at least on paper.
“In Kim Jong Il’s final will, she is named as the replacement for Kim Kyong Hui,” said North Korea leadership expert Michael Madden, referring to the wife of the late Jang Song Taek and aunt of Kim Jong Un.
However, opinion is split on over the current role and influence the elder Kim has in the North Korean power structure.
Kim Heung-gwang argued that she has recently taken on a whole host of new responsibilities soon after Kim Jong Un disappeared from the public eye in early September.
Her name was mentioned in a Supreme People’s Assembly meeting on September 29 as Kim Jong Un’s “head secretary,” which means her new roles include managing his schedule and security forces, Kim said.
But this conflicts with reports that Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, has been working as head secretary.
Kim Heung-gwang argues that Kim Yo Jong has taken responsibility for a series of recent policy failures and has moved on to another position.
However, not all experts believe this is the case.
“I recognize that Kim Sul Song was at the center of power during the Kim Jong Il-era, but now there’s Kim Yo Jong,” said Kang Chol-hwan, director of the Seoul-based North Korea Strategy Center. “I think we have to assume that Kim Sul Sung’s influence has significantly waned.”
Kim Heung-gwang further argued that Kim Sul Song has no interest in power and simply aims to continue the Kim family dynasty through the ages.
Not all experts agree, however, that Kim Sul Song has been completely uninvolved in internal power conflicts.
Kim and her husband, rumored to be a high ranking official in the Organizational Guidance Department (OGD), have been involved in several trade-related disputes and turfwars with the late Jang Song Taek, said Madden.
“I believe that Kim and her husband were instrumental in Jang’s execution last year,” he said.
Jang Song Taek’s abrupt purge and execution last December has been described by many experts as the result of an internal power struggle.
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