North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Kyong-hui: Wouldn't Be Ashamed to Be Seen with You Anywhere

Kim Kyong-hui (second from right) in Hamhung around 20 January 2010 (Photo: KCTV)

Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Jong-il’s younger sister, is swiftly becoming her brother’s favorite traveling companion on his guidance and inspection tours.  As of today (22 January), General-Secretary Kim had made eleven (11) appearances, and Ms. Kim was identified by name in the North Korean press as being a member of General-Secetary Kim’s travel party on six (6) occasions.  Kim Kyong-hui is a bit camera-shy, and it is likely that she has appeared at all of General-Secretary Kim’s visits.

Her husband, Jang Song-thaek, appeared rather prominently in South Hamgyong around 20 January but is not named in the KCNA report of that inspection.  2010 is the year of the KWP emphasizing light industry.  Ms. Kim’s day job as Department Director of KWP Light Industry, certainly adds a touch of propaganda credibility.  But the frequency of her appearances may have more to do with ideological branding.

Kim Kyong-hui sporadically joined her brother’s visits in 2009 (You can read a general post about Ms. Kim and her appearance in 2009 here).  She more or less became a fixture in General-Secretary Kim’s travel party by the late fall of 2009.  In November, a report appeared in JoongAng Daily that Kim Kyong-hui had taken over management of the Personal Secretariat, including coordinating her brother’s schedule and security arrangements from (ex-) cohort Kim Ok.  Unlike Kim Ok who was cloistered in General-Secretary Kim’s personal life and administrative apparatus, Kim Kyong-hui (despite having kept a low profile for many years) can work in the Personal Secretariat while maintaining a public profile.  She is, after all, the only daughter of the late DPRK President Kim Il-sung and Revolutionary Mother Kim Jong-suk, in addition to being a long-time SPA Deputy (delegate) and Central Committee member.

Ms. Kim’s presence may also be related to succession, in addition to attending to her brother and serving as the face of the DPRK’s light industry. Two reports in late December/early January said that Kim Jong-un [Eun] had joined General-Secretary Kim’s inspection tours in the latter part of 2009.  Kim Kyong-hui has been identified by Yonhap, among other sources, as one of Jong-un’s [Eun] leadership tutors.  She may be sitting on the sidelines with her nephew (y’ know away from cameras) inculcating him in the way of on-the-spot-guidance and providing him a formal introduction to various KWP cadres.  Kim Kyong-hui’s presence from late Spring 2009 to the present also indicates to an internal mid-to-senior audience (those in the know in Pyongyang and elsewhere) that the Kim Family and core North Korean elites have reached consensus on succession.

In the mean time, Kim Kyong-hui’s husband (and my favorite human research area) Jang Song-thaek is said by Choson Ilbo to be on the board of directors of the DPRK’s new development bank.  These activities must make for interesting dinner conversations in the Jang-Kim household(s).


This article was written on 23 Jan 2010, and is filled under Jang Song-thaek, Kim Family, Kim Jong-il, leadership succession, succession.

An affiliate of 38 North