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Tsutomu Nishioka

【#693(Special)】Kim Yo Jong Has Become N. Korea’s 2nd Supreme Leader

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2020.06.24 (Wed)

June 22, 2020

North Korea has transitioned from the Kim Jong Un dictatorship to the joint dictatorship by Kim Jong Un and his younger sister Kim Yo Jong. This indicates Kim Jong Un’s seriously ill health. In this column on June 8, I pointed out that Kim Yo Jong in her statement on June 4 harshly criticized North Korean defectors for sending propaganda leaflets concealed in balloons to the North and the South Korean government for tacitly approving such action and threatened to close the Inter-Korean Liaison Office and abolish the North-South military agreement, signaling Kim Jong Un’s transfer of power to his sister. Kim Yo Jong issued statements also on June 13 and 17 bashing South Korea’s Moon Jae In administration. Particularly, the following part of the June 13 statement surprised North Korea watchers.

“Instruction” to explode the Inter-Korean Liaison Office

“By exercising my power authorized by the Supreme Leader, our Party and the state, I gave an instruction to the arms of the department in charge of the affairs with enemy to decisively carry out the next action. Before long, a tragic scene of the useless north-south joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen.”

Under North Korea’s one-man dictatorial system, the supreme leader alone can issue instructions. Any other senior officials are required to carry out the supreme leader’s instructions but not to give instructions. This is clarified in a secret document titled “10 principles for establishing the one-man dictatorial system,” which was established by then Korean Workers’ Party General Secretary Kim Jong Il in 1974 and revised by KWP Chairman Kim Jong Un in 2013.

The use of the word “instruction” in Kim Yo Jong’s statement means anyone refusing to abide by unconditionally her instruction would be killed as in the case of the supreme leader’s instruction. Three days after the instruction was given, the Inter-Korea Liaison Office was exploded, with large-scale rallies opened by those against South Korean President Moon and defectors throughout North Korea.

Kim Jong Un has allowed his sister to use the word “instruction” apparently because he has had little confidence in his own health. His son is only 11 years old. Expecting that he could not remain dictator until his son reaches adulthood, Kim Jong Un might have chosen his sister as transitional dictator. According to inside information, Kim Yo Jong has been raising the son who is not a child born by Kim Jong Un’s legal wife.

China has secretly tolerated North Korea to smuggle coal

Angered that Moon’s failure to provide economic assistance as promised created the current crisis, Kim Jong Un and Yo Jong are said to have decided late last year to bash Moon after April’s assembly election in the South. However, North Korea cannot earn foreign currency if it bashes Moon or step up military provocations. Nevertheless, Beijing apparently told Pyongyang in secret around the second week of June of a plan to tolerate North Korean coal to be smuggled to China, with North Korean freighters carrying coal to Dalian, Qingdao and Dandong. Within North Korea, various organizations are competing for power to smuggle coal. Chinese President Xi Jinping might have concluded that the Kim Jong Un regime would collapse unless Beijing supports Pyongyang even by running counter to United Nations sanctions. This is the reason we must be alert to China’s violation of U.N. sanctions and prevent such development.

As economic sanctions and the spread of the coronavirus originated from Wuhan, China, have seriously worsened a regime crisis in North Korea, rapidly rising Kim Yo Jong has instructed to sever all relations with the Moon government to contain domestic discontent. She has instructed the armed forces to consider military provocations following the explosion of the Inter-Korean Liaison Office.

Tsutomu Nishioka is a senior fellow and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and visiting professor at Reitaku University. He covers South and North Koreas.