Kim Jong-un 'in dire need of allies' within his own government as younger sister appointed to senior role

‘Strong leaders aren’t absent from the public for six weeks without reason’ says expert

Kim Jong-un’s appointment of his younger sister to a senior role in the North Korean government suggests the leader is “in dire need of allies” according to a leading expert.

Kim Yo-jong, who is believed to be in her mid-to-late twenties, was referred to as a departmental vice director within the party’s Central Committee by state media this week, which analysts believe could signal her growing role in supporting her brother’s authoritarian role.

She first made a public appearance at her father Kim Jong-il’s funeral. 

Kim Yo-Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, pictured walking behind her brother

The siblings’ late father, former leader Kim Jong-il, was seen as relying on his own sister, Kim Kyong-Hui, who was his close aide for decades. She is understood to have helped Kim Jong-un during his transition to becoming leader, but has disappeared from public view since her husband was executed last year for a number of crimes including treason.

But Kim Jong-un’s appointment of his sister to a senior role does not necessarily mirror the relationship of his father and aunt, according to Dr Remco Breuker, professor of Korean studies at Leiden University.

“Kim is in dire need of allies and if he is forced to appoint his sister, who is both younger than him and a woman [to this role] then he doesn’t have enough people to rely on,” Dr Breuker told The Independent, adding: “He probably wants her as a close ally and confidante.”

Dr Breuker believes the appointment shows Kim Jong-un is looking for ways to get more power, suggesting he is in a weak position in his own government.

“You could make the opposite argument that Kim Jong-un is so strong he can put his sister into a position of power, but given what is going on, I don’t think this is the case.

“Strong leaders aren’t absent from the public for six weeks without any reason,” he said.

North Korea’s diplomatic policy and its current treatment of the European Union shows a more complete picture of Kim Jong-un’s position in his own government at the moment, Dr Brauker said.

“The fact that North Korea is willing to talk about the country as a nuclear state, and to respond about human rights, says more than these kinds of appointments,” he said, adding that North Korea is “almost wooing the EU” over the human rights issues following the highly critical UN report earlier this year.

“North Korea is extremely worried about the human rights resolution being voted through to the UN General Assembly by 111 countries; this gives us a much stronger grip on the position of the North Korean government at the moment,” he said.