Kim Yo Jong, believed to be in her thirties, was turfed out of the dictator’s inner circle when she was blamed for last year’s bungled talks with Donald Trump.
But following an extensive publicity drive to curry favour, her brother has appointed her an alternate member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee.
Saturday’s reshuffle saw the Pyongyang strongman overhaul a third of his decision-making body, according to state media.
Kim Jong-Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong (left) has been reinstated to North Korea’s leadership council to preside over the police state’s expansive propaganda operation. Pictured: Kim Yo Jong walks ahead of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in March
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un takes part in a meeting of the reshuffled Political Bureau of the Central Committee on Saturday
Kim Yo Jong was promoted to vice minister for foreign affairs, with special responsibility for pumping out the nation’s propaganda, the Times reports.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang collapsed in February last year when President Trump pulled out of a much anticipated Hanoi summit to discuss denuclearisation.
Kim pinned the blame on his younger sister, who was swiftly removed from her post.
Since she was cast out into the cold, Kim Yo Jong has steadily built back her public profile by appearing in videos with her brother – one even shows the pair riding horses in the snowy mountains.
A North Korean defector who is now a researcher in Seoul, Ahn Chan-il, said: ‘The restoration is part of Kim Yo Jong’s recent rise within the North’s hierarchy.’
Kim Yo Jong acted as her brother’s envoy to the South at the time of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, which ushered in a rapid diplomatic rapprochement on the divided peninsula.
Kim Yo Jong (left, handing a document to Mike Pompeo), believed to be in her thirties, was turfed out of the dictator’s inner circle when she was blamed for last year’s bungled talks (first summit in Singapore pictured) with Donald Trump
Kim Yo Jong, center, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, talks with South Koran President Moon Jae-in in 2018
She has frequently been pictured alongside him at summits with President Trump or the South’s President Moon Jae-in.
But she only began issuing statements of direct political significance under her own name last month, which analysts said highlights her central role in the North’s political ranking.
It followed her appointment as first vice-department director of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party – her main role in the totalitarian state.
Ri Son Gwon, who was named the North’s top diplomat in January, was also elected as an alternate member of the Political Bureau alongside Kim’s sister.
Since he came to power Kim has established an iron grip on the levers of authority in his nuclear-armed country.
He is chairman of the SAC – the North’s highest decision-making body – and five of its 13 other members were replaced at a meeting of the country’s rubber-stamp Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) parliament on Sunday, the state KCNA news agency reported.
‘This is a rather large scale of SAC membership shuffle,’ said former US government North Korea analyst Rachel Lee.
Since he came to power Kim has established an iron grip on the levers of authority in his nuclear-armed country (pictured on Saturday)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects inspects an air defense unit in western area
Pictures carried by the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed hundreds of lawmakers sitting in close proximity to each other without wearing protective masks.
A cabinet report reiterated the North’s insistence that ‘not a single case’ of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world since emerging in neighbouring China has been reported in the country.
Pyongyang put thousands of its own people and hundreds of foreigners – including diplomats – into isolation and mounted disinfection drives as it sought to prevent an outbreak, which experts say could be devastating given its weak health sector and widespread malnutrition.
‘State emergency anti-epidemic campaign will continue to be intensified to prevent the spread of COVID-19,’ the cabinet report said.
There was no mention on KCNA of Kim presiding over the meeting himself, and he did not appear in photos of it.
‘The fact that North Korea went ahead with the SPA suggests the country’s confidence in managing the coronavirus situation,’ Lee told AFP.
‘The fact that the attendees were not wearing masks only reconfirms that.’
Under Kim the North has made rapid progress on its nuclear arsenal, launching missiles capable of reaching the whole of the US mainland, and has been subject to increasingly stringent UN Security Council sanctions as a result.
Talks with the US have been largely deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit last year over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in exchange.
A budgetary report submitted to the SPA said 15.9 percent of state spending this year would be devoted to defence, KCNA said, a marginal increase on 2019.
The cabinet report acknowledged that ‘serious mistakes’ were found in its work last year.
‘They taught a serious lesson that if the officials in charge of providing economic guidance fail to fulfil their duty,’ the authorities’ economic goals will not be achieved, it said.