About the Author
View more articles by Dennis P. Halpin
Dennis P. Halpin
Dennis P. Halpin, a former Foreign Service Officer and senior Congressional staff, is a consultant on Asian issues.
In the days leading up to the recently completed Seventh Congress of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), there was widespread media speculation, including by BBC News and South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, over the expected enhanced role in the North Korean leadership for Kim Jong Un’s little sister Kim Yo Jong. While 28-years-old might seem a bit green for someone to be engaged in assisting in running a country with nuclear weapons, North Korea had already designated a then largely untested, under-30-year-old as Supreme Leader just over four years ago. In this case, what was good for the gander appears equally good for the goose.
As expected, Kim Yo Jong was, according to Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency, named a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee at the just-completed Party Congress. It was noted that she also serves as a vice department director of the ruling party. An early indication of the prominence Kim Yo Jong would assume in her elder brother’s regime was given during the funeral services for her father Kim Jong Il in December 2011. She was seen alongside her elder brother, the presumed heir, attending memorial events and greeting mourners in black hanbok even though she had not been officially named to the all-important funeral committee. She was later publicly mentioned in March 2014 when she accompanied her older brother to the ballot box in voting for the Supreme People’s Assembly election. And UPI reported that, as a sign of increased prominence, Kim Yo Jong was seen standing next to her brother at a military rally in Kim Il Sung Square immediately after the just-completed Party Congress.