Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, denounced the South Korean government for its “grave concerns” over the North’s recent rocket launches, saying they were part of routine self-defense exercises.
In a statement released by state news agency KCNA on Tuesday, Kim Yo-jong called Seoul’s presidential office “mentally challenged” and likened it to a “frightened dog.”
North Korea fired what it claimed to be two super-large short-range rockets into the East Sea in a test that Kim Jong-un oversaw with “great satisfaction.” Following the launches, South Korea’s presidential office expressed concerns.
Kim Yo-jong said South Korea and the US were also conducting military exercises on the peninsula. This year’s joint military drills, originally set for March, were postponed due to concerns over the rapidly spreading coronavirus. She said their postponement was not because of a commitment to peace or reconciliation on the part of either Seoul or Washington.
It was the first time she had publicly addressed South Korea.
In Seoul, Cheong Wa Dae remained mum on Kim Yo-jong’s scathing criticism. The Unification Ministry highlighted the importance of mutual respect in inter-Korean relations.
North Korea experts said the unprecedented message from Kim Yo-jong served to rally North Koreans against the South, and did more.
“The message aims to solidify political capital for Kim Yo-jong and Kim Jong-un himself, the descendants of the fabled Paektu bloodline,” Shin Jong-woo, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, said.
The mountain Paektusan is a centerpiece of North Korea’s propaganda campaign to sanctify bloodline of the ruling Kim family. Previous ruler Kim Jong-il was born there, according to the communist country’s mythology.
“Kim Yo-jong will more frequently project herself onto the inter-Korean agenda, now that she has made a memorable debut.”
Other experts concur that her message reflects Pyongyang’s disappointment with Seoul for failing to help it gain relief from UN sanctions. Pyongyang has repeatedly called on both Washington and Seoul to push for looser sanctions.
Last year at a key ruling party meeting, Kim Yo-jong was elected first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee. Seoul officials suspect she is the de facto head of the party’s key organ that monitors ranking figures in the party, as well as the military and the government.
By Choi Si-young (firstname.lastname@example.org