Kim Jong Un's little sister has assumed a senior position in North Korea's ruling Workers' Party. The announcement is being seen as an attempt to consolidate a third generation of Kim family rule in the pariah state.
Kim Yo Jong, who is believed to be 26 or 27, was identified on Thursday as vice director of a department within the powerful Central Committee of her brother's government, according to a report from state news agency KCNA.
The younger sibling made her first public appearance during the funeral of her father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011. She has since occasionally been seen accompanying her brother to political events, and although rumors had been circulating that she might have been given a managerial role in the authoritarian regime, this is the first mention of a specific post.
Her brother Kim Jong Un, 31, is the third generation in the Kim dynasty, which has ruled the secretive, impoverished state with a personality cult and an iron fist for more than 60 years.
It is not clear what Kim Yo Jong's responsibilities within the government are, but the promotion is being seen as a sign of her growing importance.
According to Yang Moo-jin, a North Korea expert at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, a departmental vice director is similar to a vice Cabinet minister. He added that the announcement of the role shows the government is now confident enough to introduce Kim Yo Jong as a significant part of its leadership.
Kim Yo Jong is the only other member of the Kim family known to have an official job within the current government. Former leader Kim Jong Il appeared to rely on his own sister, Kim Kyong Hui, who served as a key aide, occupying senior party posts and becoming a four-star general in 2010. However, she disappeared from public view after her husband, Jang Song Thaek, was purged for treason last December.
Kim Yo Jong is the youngest of Kim Jong Il's seven children. Both she and Kim Jong Un were born to Ko Yong Hui (1952-2004), a member of the prestigious Mansudae Art Troupe and fourth wife to Kim Jong Il.
The siblings are believed to have attended a boarding school near Berne, Switzerland, during the 1990s and early 2000s. Kim Yo Jong later attended university in North Korea and took courses in Western Europe.
Earlier this year, Kim Jong Un disappeared from the public eye, fueling international speculation about his health and his grip on power.
North Korea analyst Michael Madden told DW Kim Yo Jung is one of her brother's closest confidantes, but that given the patriarchal nature of North Korea's political culture, she is not a likely candidate for succession.
Earlier this month, a resolution was adopted by the United Nations recommending that North Korea's leadership be brought before the International Criminal Court on charges of human rights violations.
nm/tj (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)