Among reports of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s declining health, sources believe his younger sister could take over if he dies.
If the North Korean leader dies, his younger sister Kim Yo Jong is reported to be his likely successor, Taiwan News reported. The 32-year-old is believed to be the daughter of Kim Jong Il’s mistress, Ko Yung Hui.
Reports of Kim Jong Un’s health have conflicted recently, with some saying he is in critical condition following a cardiovascular procedure on April 12, CNN reported.
Public speculation about Kim’s health began after he missed the “Day of the Sun” celebration on April 15 in honor of his grandfather’s birthday.
China dispatched a team of medical experts to give advice on Kim Jong Un’s condition, but Reuters could not immediately determine what the trip might indicate regarding Kim’s prognosis.
South Korean officials reported Tuesday that North Korea was displaying “no usual developments” and that Kim was handling state affairs as usual.
“We have no information to confirm regarding rumors about Chairman Kim Jong Un’s health issue that have been reported by some media outlets,” South Korean presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok said, according to Fox News. “Also, no unusual developments have been detected inside North Korea.”
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the United States was “monitoring these reports very closely.”
The elder Kim’s mistress, Ko, is also the mother of Kim Jong Un and his two older brothers. His brother Kim Jong Nam was assassinated in 2017, allegedly at Kim Jong Un’s command, and Kim Jong Chul is believed be uninvolved in politics.
Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong studied in Switzerland together from 1996 to 2000 and developed a close bond.
Kim Yo Jong became a junior cadre in the Korean Worker’s Party in 2007 and has unsurprisingly risen through the ranks after her brother became supreme leader in 2011.
She currently serves as the first vice-department director of the Korean Worker’s Party Central Committee and gained international attention by representing her country at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Kim Yo Jong issued her first public statement in March in response to South Korea’s protests of North Korea’s firing of two short-range missiles.
She called the launches an “action for self-defense” that was “not aimed to threaten anybody.”
Despite her increased visibility, many experts have doubts about a woman becoming the leader of the communist country with strong Confucian traditions.
Experts told VICE News that if Kim Yo Jong does take power, it does not mean she will soften her country’s foreign policy.
“It’s entirely possible that Ms. Kim will prove even more tyrannical than her brother or father or grandfather,” said Sung Yoon Lee, a Korean expert at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. “She will also have to show her mettle by provoking the U.S. with major weapons tests and lethal attacks on South Korea and U.S. forces stationed there.”
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