Pyongyang usually goes over to the language of threats and ultimatums when food runs out in the country again, but this time the reason for the sharp aggravation of the situation on the peninsula may be different. A new player enters the arena of international politics – Kim Yo Jeong, sister of Kim Jong-un, and the Valkyrie of the Juche regime.
“Our invincible revolutionary army will carry out an act of retaliation for insulting our people, which has never been so outraged before.”
It is difficult to interpret this message in the central newspaper of the DPRK Rodong Sinmun otherwise than as a promise of an early war with its southern neighbor. Moreover, on the eve of the first deputy head of the department for agitation and propaganda of the ruling Labor Party, Kim Yo Jung promised the “enemy” in the person of Seoul the “next step” that will be taken by the armed forces:
“Using the power given to me by the highest leader, our party, and the country, I ordered the department for relations with the enemy to decisively take the next step.”
Thus, the two countries, which had recently been on the path of national reconciliation, were again on the verge of war. All cooperation between them has frozen a week ago, all communication channels were blocked, including a special line for communication between top officials. And now Pyongyang uses unprecedentedly harsh rhetoric even by its own, North Korean standards.
But it is not so important what and how it was said. More important is the figure of the one who said all this.
Kim Yo Jeong is the sister of Kim Jong-un, his closest adviser, and special envoy. It is believed that she is responsible for the personality cult of the head of state and is the second most influential person in the most closed country in the world, which is largely based on family ties: brother and sister studied together in Switzerland and, being limited in contacts with the outside world, are used to trust each other.
The newspaper VZGLYAD wrote in detail about this woman and why she is called Kim Jong-un’s likely successor. There was a serious reason for this material: the leader of North Korea suddenly disappeared and even ignored the most important propaganda event in the life of the country – the celebration of the birthday of his grandfather, the founder of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, who still rules the people’s republic from some other world ( at least the North Koreans believe in it or pretend to believe it).
This “liberty” was explained by a serious illness or even the sudden death of Kim Jong-un (which would be really unpleasant news for the Western world), but he soon began to appear again in public, forcing the world to wonder what was the reason for his vacation – the disease or some kind of political calculation.
Whatever the case, the consequence of these events was that the whole world knew about Kim Yo Jeong, and her career went uphill. For the one who is called the second most influential person in the DPRK, such a formulation sounds strange, but that is, that is.
Kim Yo-Jeong not only joined the political bureau of the ruling party but also became responsible for relations with South Korea, that is, for the main vector in North Korean foreign policy. And now she throws thunder and lightning, destroying what was built including her efforts.
South Korea is now led by “pigeons,” which has contributed to an unprecedented thaw in relations between previously irreconcilable enemies. President Moon Jae In even made his first-ever state visit the DPRK, where he spent three days and received consent from Kim Jong-un for a return trip. But if Kim managed to complete it before the current events, then he would not have become the first Kim to cross the border of two Koreas since the war between them. Because the first was Kim Yo Jeong. She attended the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang when the athletes of the two Koreas unexpectedly passed under the same flag (the desire to unite the Korean state is declared both in Seoul and Pyongyang). Her diplomatic mission on behalf of her brother was successful and marked a new era in relations between the two countries. The era, which ends today including its efforts. And the excuse for this is, frankly, ridiculous.
A long-standing practice of South Korean political activists is sending various propaganda to the North – political leaflets, campaign posters, or just souvenirs, for example, toys with some kind of subtext.
Most often, balloons are used as delivery vehicles – large and small, which the North Korean army simply shoots.
Often, such activists are North Korean refugees, who take an extremely hostile position towards the Kimov regime (in a similar way, the Cuban community of the US state of Florida is characterized by sharply anti-Castro sentiments). And now, organizations consisting mainly of migrants from the North (the Alliance of Movements for a Free North Korea and Khynsem) have sent leaflets across the border that insulted the authorities of the people’s republic (at least the authorities of this republic say so).
What matters here is that in Seoul Pyongyang’s indignation was heard and exhaustively made clear that it was ready to solve the problem. The ban on actions with leaflets and balloons in South Korea has many opponents from among the patriots, anti-communists, and advocates of freedom of speech. Nevertheless, the country’s authorities announced a desire to introduce strict legislative restrictions for them under the pretext that such campaigning threatens the lives of residents of border regions (more precisely, not herself, but the possible response of the DPRK army to it), and punish refugee activists, by canceling their business permits.
But Pyongyang seems not to see this willingness to make concessions, and Kim Yeo Jung is threatening his neighbors with more and more terrible punishments, as if the problem with the “pirate” anti-communist agitation appeared yesterday, and has not existed for decades.
There may be two explanations for this strange behavior, with one not contradicting the other.
When Kim Jong-un was “resurrected”, Ilya Dyachkov, associate professor of the Department of Oriental Studies at MGIMO, suggested that North Korea needed the story of his disappearance in order to return to the international agenda and attract attention, not so much South Korea as the United States.
At present, Pyongyang assesses its relations with Washington as “hopeless.” Like, “emerging hopes gave way to despair,” and “the spark of optimism for peaceful prosperity went out under the pressure of a pessimistic nightmare.” The historic summit with Trump (which, by the way, was also attended by Kim Yong Jung) died down, Kim Jong-un’s promise to move to complete nuclear disarmament of the peninsula hung in the air, while the DPRK did not receive what it had counted on – economic assistance and easing sanctions.
Punching the table, interspersed with formidable promises, is North Korea’s traditional position in international bidding.
It is possible that Kim wants to reopen these auctions, as the current results do not correspond to his ambitions.
All these maneuvers really attracted attention to the DPRK, but first of all to Kim Yo Jeong personally. No matter how you regard Kim’s mysterious vacation and current threats of war, both of these have led his sister to become a “star” on a national and global scale.
The very punches on the table and assurances of readiness to repel any threat from the outside are a mandatory burden for a high-ranking North Korean official, it is an honor for his uniform and internal PR at the same time. Considering that the reason for tightening rhetoric is now purely formal, we can assume that we are dealing with the further promotion of Kim Yo-Jeong to turn it into a full-fledged and universally recognized “heavyweight” North Korean policy.
Perhaps Kim is really preparing a successor for himself – personally and now. Perhaps he wants to share the governance of the country with his sister – the man he loves and trusts. In any case, the Juche regime, formerly boiling down to its sole leader, takes on a second world-famous figure – a kind of unique and very timely, if you take into account the so-called “third wave of feminism.”