From producing an ashtray during a cigarette break en route to a nuclear summit to issuing a statement in praise of the US president, Kim Yo-jong has become the single most important figure in the North Korean regime after her brother, the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Since representing Kim at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Yo-jong has not only acquired prestigious titles within the ruling Workers’ party. She is rumoured to be the brains behind Kim’s carefully constructed public image, at home and abroad. In return, she enjoys the absolute confidence of her brother, a leader capable of ordering the execution of his own uncle for alleged treason.
As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic – with Pyongyang continuing to insist it has not recorded a single case – Kim Yo-jong’s ascendancy continues. Last month, she made her first public statement, condemning the South as a “frightened dog barking” after Seoul protested against a live-fire military exercise by the North. And in March, she publicly praised Donald Trump for sending Kim a letter in which he said he hoped to maintain good bilateral relations and offered help in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.