Kim Kyong Hui, the aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a once-influential figure in the DPRK leadership, reappeared in state media reporting on Sunday, her first such appearance in over six years.
Kim, widely reported to have been ordered killed in the wake of the high-profile purge and execution of her husband Jang Song Thaek, appeared alongside the DPRK leader and other members of his family at a concert marking the Lunar New Year in Pyongyang.
“Among the audience were Choe Ryong Hae, Kim Kyong Hui, Ri Il Hwan, Jo Yong Won, Kim Yo Jong and Hyon Song Wol,” a report by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) read.
The news marks the 73-year-old Kim’s first named appearance in state media reporting since September 2013, just months before her late husband was removed from high office and executed on charges of treason.
The youngest daughter of North Korea’s founding President Kim Il Sung and his second wife Kim Jong Suk, Kim became an influential figure under the rise to power of her brother, Kim Jong Il, serving on the ruling party Central Committee.
She and her husband became something of a North Korean “power couple,” holding sway over major economic projects and developing an influential circle within the country’s elites.
But she fell out of favor following Kim Jong Un’s succession in 2011, with reports at the time indicating she was in ill health due to a lifetime of heavy drinking.
Rumors then swirled in the wake of Jang’s purge that she had been executed, committed suicide, or had gone into exile, though her appearance in a 2014 documentary on Kim Jong Un’s leadership feats suggested, to some, that she remained influential.
It’s unclear why she has re-emerged this week after six years out of public view.
But KCNA reporting on Sunday, notably, listed Kim’s name second after North Korean second-in-command Choe Ryong Hae and before of those of top officials Ri Il Hwan, Jo Yong Won, Kim Yo Jong, and Hyon Song Wol.
State media typically names officials in order of rank, suggesting Kim may now be serving in a new, influential role.