Childhood & Early Years
Kim Yo-jong was born on 26 September 1987, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Her father, Kim Jong-il, was the ruler of North Korea from 1994 to 2011. He showered great love on her, calling her “Sweet, Sweet Yo Jong” and “Princess Yo Jong.”.
Her mother, Ko Yong-hui, was her father’s third consort. A Japanese born former dancer, Ko Yong-hui is referred as "The Respected Mother who is the Most Faithful and Loyal 'Subject' to the Dear Leader Comrade Supreme Commander", "The Mother of Pyongyang", and "The Mother of Great Songun Korea."
Kim Yo-jong was born youngest of her parents’ three children, having two elder brothers named Kim Jong-chul (born in 1981) and Kim Jong-un (born in 1984). Among them, Kim Jong-un is the current Supreme Leader of North Korea, inheriting the role after his father’s death in 2011.
She also has two half siblings. Her half-brother, Kim Jong-nam was born in 1971 out of her father’s partnership with Song Hye-rimand and her half-sister, Kim Sul-song, was born in 1974 out of her father’s liaison with Kim Young-sook.
Kim Yo-jong and her brothers were sent to Switzerland for their schooling, possibly to keep them away from the influence of their grandfather, Kim Il-sung. Here they attended Hessgut Schule, a state-run, German-speaking establishment in the suburb of Liebefeld outside Berne and lived in a close-by apartment.
Possibly for security reasons, they were all assigned pseudonyms. While Kim Yo-jong was called Pak Mi Hyang, Kim Jong Chol was known as Pak Chol and Kim Jong Un as Pak Un. Their classmates were told that they were the children of an Asian ambassador posted in Switzerland.
Not much is known about Kim Yo-jong’s school life, except that she showed interest in ballets during this period. They led such an ordinary life that even the teachers were not aware of their true identity. They only found it astonishing that the children’s parents never visited them.
From the beginning, Kim Yo-jong and Kim Jong-un were very close to each other. Therefore when in 2000-2001 Kim Jong-un returned to North Korea after four years of study, she too followed him.
According to unverified sources, on her return to North Korea, she attended the Kim Il-sung Military University, a post secondary institute located in P'yŏngyang,. Thereafter, she probably studied computer science at Kim Il-sung University. By then, she had started showing interest in politics.
According to the North Korea Leadership Watch blog, her father greatly appreciated her interest in politics. As early as in 2002, he proudly told some foreign interlocutors that she was interested in a career in the political system of the country.
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Kim Yo-jong lived away from public glare until 2010. However, it is believed that she started playing a junior role in the ruling Korean Workers’ Party since 2007 and after their father suffered two strokes in 2008 she began to play a vital role in arranging Kim Jong-un’s succession.
In September 2010, she was first photographed attending the Third Conference of the Korean Workers’ Party. In this picture, she stood beside her father’s secretary and possibly his mistress, Kim Ok.
In this 2010 conference, she was selected an “alternate member” of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee within the Korean Workers’ Party. Since the Political Bureau was the highest decision making body, the position made her one of the most important women of the country.
By 2011, she had regular presence in her father’s entourage. When Kim Jong-il died in December 2011, she was seen mourning at the side of her brother, Kim Jong-un, leading the funeral procession of central officials. However, she was neither a member of the funeral committee nor was she ever named.
Beginning 2012, she was given the position of the tour manager for Kim Jong-un under the National Defense Commission. By then, Kim Jong-un had become the Supreme Leader of North Korea and therefore the post further elevated her position in the hierarchy.
In spite of gaining an important position, Kim Yo-jong remained away from publicity. She did not appear in any news report until in November 2012, when she was shown riding with her brother Kim Jon-un by the Korean Central Television. But she was not mentioned by her name.
Her first official mention came on 9 March 2014. On that day, she accompanied Kim Jong-un in the election of the Supreme People's Assembly and when the news was shown, she was mentioned as a "senior official" of the WPK Central Committee.
In September-October 2014, when her brother became ill from “uncomfortable physical condition”, she is reported to have taken over the state duties for six weeks. By then, Kim Jong-un had started grooming her as a successor to their aunt Kim Kyong-hui, who held an important position in Jong-un’s inner circle.
On 28 November 2014, she climbed one more step when she was appointed Vice-Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Worker’s Party of Korea. Subsequently on 24 July 2015, she became the Director of the department replacing the previous director Kim Ki-nam.
As the Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, she began to project her brother as benevolent leader, slowly creating a cult-personality modeled after their grandfather Kim Il-sung. Concurrently, she was also seen as a tyrant, punishing officials even for minor offences.
Over the years, she began to assume total control over the state machinery, concurrently retaining her loyalty to her brother. In January 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted her for “severe human rights abuses” and also for the censorship that concealed the regime’s “inhumane and oppressive behavior”.
On 7 October 2017, Kim Yo-jong was made an alternate member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, the highest decision making body of the country. She thus became the second woman to be appointed to this important bureau.
On 9 February 2018, she made another history when she attended the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea. No other member of the Kim dynasty had visited South Korea since the Korean War, which took place between 1950 and 1953.
She played a major diplomatic role when on 10 February 1918 she met Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, delivering a hand written letter from Kim Jong-un and inviting him to North Korea. Later it was revealed that she went to South Korea as a special envoy of her brother.
Personal Life & Legacy
Sometime in early 2015, Kim Yo-jong married Choe Song, the second son of Choe Ryong-hae, an important member of the Presidium and Secretariat of the Workers' Party of Korea. Although the news has never been officially verified she has been seen with a band on her wedding ring finger.
In May 2015, she gave birth to a child, whose father remains unidentified. While some say that the child has been fathered by a fellow student of Kim Il-sung University, others believe him to be an official of the WPK, while still others believe him to be her bodyguard.