The seating arrangements at the memorial service marking the 25th anniversary of the death of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, Monday at Pyongyang Gymnasium showed her current political status.
She was seated just four places to the left of her brother, after vice chairmen of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party Pak Pongju, Ri Man-gon and Ri Su-yong.
To Kim Jong-un’s right sat Choe Ryong-hae, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly; premier Kim Jae-ryong; and vice chairmen of the Workers’ Party Pak Kwang-ho and Kim Pyong-hae.
Because the country’s top officials sit in order of rank, alternating between Kim Jong-un’s right and left, Kim Yo-jong is likely to be ninth from the top.
She was the only person sitting in the front row who was not a member of the Workers’ Party politburo or Cabinet, and this is unprecedented.
Kim Yo-jong is the first vice director of the Workers’ Party propaganda and agitation department, working under its nominal director Pak Kwang-ho.
According to Rep. Lee Hye-hoon, head of the intelligence committee at South Korea’s National Assembly, the National Intelligence Service said photos of the North Korean leadership at Monday’s event show that Kim Yo-jong’s political status has increased, placing her close in rank to Choe or Ri.
Until the February summit in Hanoi between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, Yo-jong’s role mostly concerned protocol and overseeing events for her brother.
After the Hanoi summit, however, former pop star and now-deputy propaganda director Hyon Song-wol has taken over the job, and Kim Yo-jong has been demonstrating her upgraded status.
She officially accompanied her brother to the meeting with Trump and President Moon Jae-in at Panmunjom last month.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at the airport in Pyongyang last month, she stood in line to greet him along with Workers’ Party vice chairmen like Ri and Kim Yong-chol.
She also had a conversation with Xi as he was leaving the Kumsusan State Guesthouse, where he was staying.
Earlier, Kim Yo-jong sat next to her sister-in-law Ri Sol-ju to watch the iconic gymnastics performance “The Land of the People.”
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)