On September 25, 2017, Trump took to Twitter to take a dig at Kim Jong-un, branding the leader of North Korea 'little rocket man.' 'Just heard the Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at the U.N. The health of the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un has been a subject of great interest to media and governments around the world. So when he finally reappeared last week after a gap of 20 days, cutting the ribbon at the opening of a fertilizer factory, speculation was inevitable.
Nov. 13 (UPI) -- North Korea could be expanding its social media presence with at least two new Twitter accounts, but the South says the online profiles cannot be verified.
The two accounts, under the names of Kim Myong Il and Han Song Il, were created in October and include tweets condemning South Korea's main opposition conservatives and promoting the Kim Jong Un regime, South Korea's SBS reported Friday.
On Twitter, Kim Myong Il, or @korea_myongil, was identified as the head of the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. Han Song Il's profile indicated the official is the chief of the Research Institute of Reunification of the Fatherland. Kim's profile read that he is an official with 'feet planted firmly on native soil, while looking out to the world.'
The accounts included information on the latest North Korean policies, including the public smoking ban. According to tweets the officials enjoy smoking but have 'resolved to quit smoking' in line with policy.
Activity on the accounts began on Oct. 1, with new tweets being published at one- or two-day intervals. On Oct. 21, Kim Myong Il condemned the South for conducting defense drills amid COVID-19 and African swine fever. Tweets were also published in English, Chinese and Japanese in addition to Korean, according to South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo.
Unification Ministry spokeswoman Cho Hye-sil said at a regular press briefing on Friday the North operates various accounts on social media platforms, including state media services DPRK Today and Uriminzokkiri.
Cho said the new accounts, possibly the first profiles identifying individual North Korean officials, are 'difficult to verify,' according to SBS.
North Korea has kept quiet following the U.S. presidential election, as world leaders took turns congratulating President-elect Joe Biden.
Analysts in the South say they are concerned Pyongyang could test Biden with military provocations, News 1 reported Friday.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during a seminar organized by Seoul's Joint Forces Military University and the Korea Association of Military Studies that he is worried North Korea could test a missile during the transition, according to the report.
As conflicting news reports continue to fuel speculation about Kim Jong Un's health — more than two weeks after he was last seen publicly — the focus has shifted to the North Korean leader's younger sister and possible successor, Kim Yo Jong, who is a senior government official.
CNN cited a U.S. official last week who said there was intelligence suggesting Kim Jong Un was, according to the network, “in grave danger.” Bloomberg’s U.S. sources said Kim had had cardiovascular surgery and been in critical condition.
On Sunday, however, a top aide to South Korean President Moon Jae-in told CNN that Kim was 'alive and well' and 'has been staying in the Wonsan area [in eastern North Korea] since April 13.'
The South Korean unification minister told lawmakers on Tuesday that Kim may be out of view because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters.
On Monday, President Donald Trump told reporters, 'I hope he’s fine. I do know how he’s doing, relatively speaking. We will see. You’ll probably be hearing in the not too distant future.'
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Kim was last shown in state media on April 11, when he attended a government meeting.
Speculation surrounding his health first began after he was absent from the April 15th celebration for his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, whose birthday is thought to be the country’s most important holiday.
North Korea is infamously closed off from other countries and information about its society and government, and about Kim in particular, is difficult to verify.
His death would likely create instability in the country, because there is no clear plan of succession.
Observers are looking at Kim Yo Jong as a potential front-runner to take over the family and, by extension, the country it has ruled for more than 70 years.
Here are some key things to know about her.
She is high ranking and 'not one to be underestimated'
While the inner workings of the authoritarian regime remain mysterious, it's become clear that Kim Yo Jong is a leading official even if her ultimate influence is unclear. (As with her brother, her exact age is unconfirmed but she is believed to be in her 30s.)
According to TIME, she is the vice director of the propaganda and agitation department in the country's ruling Workers' Party of Korea — the agency that deals with censorship.
Earlier this month, she was named an alternate Politburo member of the party, Bloomberg reported. Her appointment comes nearly a year after she left her role in the powerful decision-making body for an unspecified reason.
In 2017, the United States blacklisted Kim Yo Jong and several other North Korean officials for human rights abuses, citing her work in propaganda and censorship, which supports the cult of personality surrounding the Kims.
The country has a notoriously poor human rights record, including executions and political imprisonment.
The younger Kim 'is, as best we can tell, a very capable and high-skilled member of the North Korean leadership — and is not one to underestimated by any stretch of the imagination,” Harry J. Kazianis, the senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, told TIME.
Speaking with Voice of America, Kazianis said: “Ms. Kim is clearly moving up the ranks over the last few years — adding more and more top-tier positions to her [party] leadership resume, something needed if she was to ever take the reins of power.'© Provided by People Patrick Semansky/Pool/Getty Kim Yo Jong
Kim Yo Jong is also in charge of making sure her brother's public image and other operations are upheld, according to The Washington Post.
The two seemingly have a close relationship, and 'Kim Jong Un appears to place trust in his sister,' Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul, told The Guardian.
'She has demonstrated skills at modernizing the brand of the regime and has some sway over state propaganda. Her most important function is probably as a confidant to her brother,' he added.
Perhaps her most crucial qualification, however, is her bloodline: Since its founding, North Korea's supreme leadership has passed from father to son for three generations. While Kim Jong Un is believed to have children too young to rule, Kim Yo Jong, as his sister, would preserve continuity of a family that is venerated as god-like.
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Kim Yo Jong's role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She's actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly. pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 8, 2018
She first surfaced at her father's funeral in 2011
Kim Yo Jong is the youngest daughter of the late Kim Jong Il and made her first public appearance at his funeral in 2011.
Her dad had several sons and daughters with multiple wives, and the family's hierarchy can be fluid — as when eldest son Kim Jong Nam fell from grace and was later assassinated. Further back in the family tree, her uncle Kim Pyong Il is receiving some notice as a possible replacement should Kim Jong Un die, because the country's patriarchal ruling class may reject her.
She was speculated to be her father's favorite, the BBC reported. He would call her names like 'Princess Yo Jong' or 'sweet, sweet Yo Jong,' according to the Post.
She later gained attention when she represented Kim Jong Un at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Her visit to the country was the first time a member of North Korea's ruling family had traveled to South Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s, according to Business Insider.
Kim Yo Jong's first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father's funeral at the end of 2011. pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 8, 2018
She went to school in Switzerland
Kim Yo Jong was born in Pyongyang, the North Korea capital, and later went to the Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Bern, Switzerland, for several years — the same school attended by her brother, according to the Post.
During her time in Bern, she reportedly went by the name Pak Mi Hyang and took ballet lessons before returning to North Korea in 2000.
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Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland. pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt
Kim Jong Un Twitter Account— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 8, 2018
She may be married
Is Kim Jong Un Alive
According to TIME, Kim Yo Jong is supposedly married to Choe Song, the son of Choe Ryong Hae, who is 'one of the most powerful officials in [North Korea’s] formal hierarchy,” according to the North Korea Leadership Watch.
Kim Jong Un Twitter
The Post cited reports that she and Song have at least one child together, and the paper was able to confirm that she has been seen with a band on her wedding finger.