Kim Jong Un’s increasingly influential sister has become one of his closest confidantes in a country where power has always been a family affair.
Kim Yo Jong made history Friday as the first member of the North’s ruling dynasty to set foot in the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Believed to be aged 30, Yo Jong is one of three children born to Kim Jong Il and his third known partner, former dancer Ko Yong Hui, making her a full sister of Kim Jong-Un.
Right-wing woman: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, seen with his sister Kim Yo Jong who has become an increasingly prominent figure in the country’s leadership
Like her brother, she received her primary educated in Berne, Switzerland in the 90s, and later returned to North Korea to study computer science in Pyongyang.
The siblings’ time together in Europe, during which they attended school under fake identities and were kept in semi-isolation under the protection of guards and party officials, has made them particularly close.
Her existence was barely known to the wider world until their father’s funeral, when she was seen standing right behind her brother on state television, looking tearful and ashen-faced.
But she was rapidly ushered up the ladder after Kim Jong-Un took the helm and she is now one of the most powerful women in the isolated regime.
A state of Kims: The family tree of North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty
‘She is one of a very few people who can talk freely about anything with the leader Kim,’ said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul.
‘She must have far bigger capacity than any other North Korean official when it comes to decision-making and policy coordination with the leader,’ he said, adding she is fluent in English and French.
Yo Jong is currently an alternate member of the political bureau of the party’s powerful central committee, and deeply involved in the party’s propaganda operations – an important role.
She was elected as a member of the Supreme People’s Assembly – the country’s rubberstamp parliament – at the age of just 27.
In December 2014, Yo Jong reportedly married a man named Choe Song, son of Workers’ Party’s party secretary Choe Ryong Hae.
The couple is said to have one child, born in 2015.