Meet North Korea's Most Powerful Woman, Kim Yo Jong

April 16, 2019
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Kim Yo Jong

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his sister, Kim Yo Jong.

During last year’s summit between the United States and North Korea, Kim Yo Jong was front and center during the historic show of diplomacy with President Donald Trump.

It looks like she’s playing a similar role again this year for a second summit between Kim Jong Un and Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam. She was even spotted on Tuesday holding a crystal ashtray as her brother took an early morning smoke break.

It’s not the first time Kim Yo Jong has made headlines she traveled to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics in February, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the south since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Like her brother, and much of the rest of their family, few details are known about Kim Yo Jong and the life she lived before reaching a prime leadership role in the North Korean government.

Here’s what we know about her so far:

Like many of Kim’s family members, Kim Yo Jong’s exact age is difficult to pin down. But she’s believed to be between 29 and 31.

She’s the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his consort Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer.

She was partly educated in Switzerland, at the same school Kim Jong Un attended. But she returned to North Korea in 2000 after completing the US equivalent of the sixth grade.

Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.

It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.

In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother, Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.

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