What Kim Yo Jong’s rise to the top says — and doesn’t say — about being a woman in North Korea

Posted On By Brett Arends
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Hong Kong (CNN)Two decades ago, on a trip across Russia in the forest-eco-friendly armored train, Kim Jong Il is reported to possess made something of the confession to some foreign emissary.

Kim Yo Jong


It had been 2001 and also the North Korean leader was touring the nation for 3 days. Associated him was Konstantin Pulikovsky, a top Russian diplomat who, because the story goes, used the rare chance and among the earth’s most reclusive leaders to speak about family.

Kim was thought to have experienced seven children. His youngest boy and future successor, Kim Jong United nations, is at his mid-teens at that time. It had not been until many years later the North Korean leader’s health would start failing him, and it is not obvious if he’d begun considering his legacy and the way to keep your family empire going.

Then when Pulikovsky requested concerning the children, Kim spoke highly of his two kids.

His sons, however, he known as “idle blockheads.”

Michael Madden, a specialist on North Korea’s leadership who runs an internet site about them and it is a government consultant, stated he’s repeated that anecdote many occasions through the years when requested concerning the Kim family. The storyline continues to be repeated in a variety of media and academic reports several occasions since 2001, but CNN couldn’t individually confirm it.

“Kim Jong Il loved his sons, but didn’t always have a superior opinion of the items these were doing with their former lifestyle,” Madden stated.

Despite the fact that apparent assessment, Kim eventually chose his youngest boy to achieve success him. The grooming process started about eight years later, in ’09, when Kim Jong United nations was handed a being released party. Kim Jong Il died of cardiac arrest 2 yrs later.

While it’s likely the planet won’t ever determine if Kim seriously one among his kids for that top job, his desire for his youngest child, Kim Yo Jong, continues to be extensively recorded by North Korean standards. Kenji Fujimoto, the pen name of the former sushi chef for that Kim family, told The Washington Publish that Kim Jong Il known her as “Princess Yo Jong” and “sweet Yo Jong.” Kim Yo Jong always sitting to her father’s left at supper, while Kim Jong Il’s wife sitting to his right, Fujimoto stated inside a book recounting his experience of North Korea.

However, Kim Jong Il might have thought that it might be a difficult sell naming a lady because the next North Korean leader — particularly with multiple sons available.

North Korea is really a notoriously patriarchal country, where women are anticipated to become dutiful and subordinate spouses and doting moms prior to else. Defectors say misogyny, gender discrimination and sexual violence are rampant.

“There is a base culture of just quite strong, traditional patriarchal gender norms and feminine disempowerment,” stated Sokeel Park, the director of research and technique for Liberty in North Korea, an individual legal rights group which helps defectors.

Yet Kim Yo Jong’s position one of the North Korean leadership is important. Her name was one of the primary pointed out just as one successor to her brother as he disappeared from public view for nearly three days, simply to emerge in condition media Saturday with Kim Yo Jong by his side.

Kim Jong Un’s mysterious absence motivated important questions regarding North Korea’s plans for future years — especially given that he’s overweight and apparently both huge smoker and drinker.

Experts say contrary ended up being to occur to him before his youthful youngsters are of sufficient age to consider over, Kim Yo Jong may be the safest and many likely heir.

If she did succeed Kim, it might place a lady in the center of probably the most repressive regimes in the world.

Gender divide

The Korean Peninsula is not a simple place to become a lady.

North Korea is hardly the bastion of equality that Kim Il Sang guaranteed could be achieved through economic liberation.

While women are a fundamental part of the workforce, and motorists from the limited private markets within the country — since all guys have jobs assigned through the condition — female defectors say they still face prevalent discrimination. In addition, they don’t have the professional and social possibilities of the male counterparts.

“Women always need to be modest,” stated Nara Kang, who left North Korea in 2015 and today resides in the south. “Men contain the purse strings lots of occasions and guys have all of the social status.”

Sexual violence is another significant problem. It’s “so common it has become recognized included in ordinary existence,” Human Legal rights Watch alleged inside a 2018 report.

North Korea denies this, because it does all allegations of prevalent abuses — so it frequently describes being an imperialist “human legal rights racket.” “Women enjoy equal legal rights with men in most fields,” diplomats in the country authored to some Un panel on women’s issues in 2017.

Kang states everything is better in Columbia, but it is not ideal. The nation ranks at the end of OECD countries with regards to the gender wage gap. Women regularly face workplace discrimination and harassment in public places, including illicit filming in toilets.

Jean Lee, an Connected Press reporter who opened up the wire service’s bureau in Pyongyang this year, stated she’s suffered “incredible sexism both in countries.”

“My female North Korean colleagues had exactly the same complaints as my female South Korean colleagues: that they are likely to do their jobs all day long but still take proper care of all of the cooking and cleaning in your own home,” stated Lee, who’s the director from the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean Background and Public Policy in the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, Electricity.

“To tell the truth, neither Korea, south or north, is a superb place to become a lady.”

However the south comes with one phone card: it’s were built with a female leader.

Park Geun-hye broke South Korea’s greatest glass ceiling in 2015, becoming the nation’s first elected lady president.

Madden, its northern border Korean leadership expert, believes that although Park’s tenure led to scandal, she demonstrated that the lady could be recognized like a leader in Korea — south or north.

“North Korea includes a 70-plus year good reputation for women being not far from the middle of power, to be influential in North Korea’s decision-making processes,” he stated.

“Columbia already broke the mold around the Peninsula.”

Kang, the defector, is not so sure. When requested if while residing in North Korea she imagined there might be a lady Supreme Leader, Kang responded incredulously.

“Not again way,” she stated. “I can not even imagine. Can’t even dream.”

An unbreakable bond

As soon as Kim Yo Jong set feet on South Korean soil in 2018, the cameras adopted her everywhere. Her job ended up being to represent her brother’s regime in the Winter Olympic games within the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, and she or he wasn’t the greatest ranking person in the envoy — that title belonged to Kim Yong Nam, who had been at that time North Korea’s ceremonial mind of condition.

But Kim Yo Jong was the main one really making history. She grew to become the very first person in North Korea’s ruling family to visit south from the 38th parallel since 1953, once the Korean War effectively ended (world war 2 continues to be technically ongoing since the fighting parties signed a truce, not really a agreement.)

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