What has become of Kim Jong Un, the sister of the influential North Korean leader?
This is a question that concerns those who are watching the mysterious, nuclear-armed country closely, after its resounding absence from the presentation of the new political group alongside Kim Jong Un.
Some estimate that the North Korean dictator may have demoted his sister due to her political failures.
Others, however, believe he could be concerned about its rapid rise and growing profile as it seeks to bolster its domestic power in the face of growing difficult economic challenges.
Rumors that Kim Yoo-yong is her brother's heir “raise the issue of Kim's stay in power and of health within the country,” according to Gyeong-seob, an analyst at the National Unification Institute of Korea. That, he believes, is why Kim Jong Un is slowing down her rise to power.
The development comes as a surprise because Kim Yoo-yong, who became an alternate member of the Politburo last year, was widely expected to take full office during the Labor government convention that ended on Tuesday.
Participation in the so-called Politburo is considered vital for high-ranking officials hoping to thrive in Kim Jong Un's government, as the body has made important decisions, including the execution of Yang Sung Taek's strong uncle in 2013, and the beheading of Ri Yong Ho in 2012.
When the eight-day congress, the first since 2016, opened last week, Kim Yoo-yong, believed to be about 32 years old, sat on the podium, standing out among the party's overwhelmingly male-dominated executives. But when the conference announced on Monday a list of 30 alternate and full members of the Politburo, including her 37-year-old brother, her name was missing.
Kim Yoo-yong has not been ousted or forced to resign, as has happened to so many other North Korean officials, and remains a member of the party's Central Committee, also a high-level body. But when a statement was issued criticizing South Korea on Wednesday, state media recognized her as the party's “deputy director” – a clear downgrade from her previous title of “first vice president”.
“The purpose of the conference was to strengthen the leadership of Kim Jong Un. “If Kim Yoo-yong had become a full member of the Politburo, all eyes would have been on her; and her brother would probably have felt like an obstacle,” said Ko Junk-juan, a former deputy head of the National Security Strategy Institute – a reservoir. led by the South Korean spy agency.
Previously unknown to the general public, Kim Jong Un has climbed the ladder of totalitarian rule since her brother inherited power from their father, Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011.
Today's Kim are the third generation of the ruling family in North Korea and their leadership is based on a cult of worship that was first started by their grandfather Kim Il Sung, who founded the country in 1948.
Their mythical “Pectus” origin, named after the country's holiest mountain, only allows family members to rule North Korea.
When unconfirmed global rumors of Kim Jong Un's health peaked last year, some observers argued that his sister was next in line to take power in the country.
The South Korean spy agency said it was essentially No. 2 in the North, but had not been anointed as her brother's heir.
“Kim Jong Un probably blamed his sister for the deteriorating (external) ties, as he had not shown any achievements in relations with the US and South Korea,” said Kim Yeol Soo, an analyst at the Institute for Military Affairs. South Korea.
Whatever the reason for the apparent loss of her position in the Politburo, many experts say that her political influence probably remains unchanged thanks to her direct connection to the “Pecto” lineage.
There is, after all, the feeling that Kim Jong Un could finally give her another high-profile position.
“She can meet and talk freely with her brother at any time; so we can say that she has a huge influence. “As she grows up, her role will be bigger,” analysts point out.
But its rise could end if it claims more power. “She has to be careful,” the experts conclude.
(with information from the Associated Press)