- Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, considered the most powerful woman in North Korea, was just seen publicly for the first time in 52 days.
- Kim Yo Jong was pictured clapping beside Kim at the Mass Games, an annual propaganda event, after rumours that she had fallen out of favour.
- She had not been at a number of high-profile events, including Kim Jong Un’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and reports suggested she was demoted and hidden from the public after Kim’s failed summit with the US.
- Kim Yo Jong was appointed as the head of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s propaganda department in 2017, and accompanied her brother to both of his meetings with US President Donald Trump.
The mysterious sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who helps him govern the country, has appeared publicly next to him after months of rumours that she had been demoted.
North Korea’s state media showed Kim Yo Jong clapping beside her brother and other leading North Korean officials at Monday’s Mass Games, an annual propaganda event featuring tens of thousands of performers demonstrating art, dancing, and gymnastics.
The event was the first time that Kim Yo Jong, considered the most powerful woman in North Korea, had been publicly seen since April 12 – 52 days previously.
BBC Monitoring shared state media’s footage of the event, which shows Kim Yo Jong, wearing grey, arriving with her brother.
Footage from the opening of North Korea's mass games event. Kim Jong-un reportedly contacted organisers afterwards to criticise their "wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude" pic.twitter.com/2w2zXCvKVP
— BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) June 4, 2019
Kim Yo Jong was appointed as the head of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s propaganda department in 2017, and regularly accompanied her brother to high-profile events, including both of his summits with US President Donald Trump.
But rumours swirled after she was absent at a number of political events from April onward, fuelling speculation that she may have been demoted or asked to stay out of the public eye after the collapse of the second summit between Kim and Trump in February.
NK News, an American news site that covers North Korea, reported in April that she may have been removed from North Korea’s high-profile ruling politburo and had stopped appearing at important political events.
She was also not present for a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later in April.
Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily newspaper, reported in May that Kim Jong Un had ordered her to keep a low profile after his summit with Trump collapsed.
Her appearance on Monday suggests that this report is untrue, or that Kim has changed his mind about his sister’s public role. South Korean media has a history of reporting scoops about North Korean politics that turn out to be wrong, The Associated Press noted last week.
Kim Yong Chol, a top North Korean official, was also present at Monday’s event, despite a report in the Chosun Ilbo that said he had been sentenced to hard labour and “ideological education.”
But Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the US, was not seen at the event.
Chosun Ilbo reported last week that he had been executed after the summit collapsed for “betraying the supreme leader.” Sources told CNN on Tuesday that he is alive and in custody, and could still face “heavy punishment.”
North Korea’s state media said Monday’s event showed “beautiful and graceful rhythmic movements, high-spirited gymnastics, interesting national emotion and rich artistic depiction.”
But it also said that Kim was unhappy with aspects of the performance, saying that he “called creators of the performance and seriously criticised them for their wrong spirit of creation and irresponsible work attitude, pointing to the contents and forms of works.”
The Mass Games have around 150,000 people in attendance and up to 100,000 people perform.
Its critics say the the event ignores North Korea’s human rights controversies, and reports have outlined how schoolchildren spend months undergoing strict training for the performance.
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