North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KJI’s Ties that Bind

Kim Kyong Hui, Kim Jong Il's sister, is 2nd L in this commemorative photograph with Kim Jong Il and other confidantes, including Jang Song Taek (4th R), KWP Secretary Kim Ki Nam (5th R) and NDC Director, Gen. Ri Myong Su (2nd R) at the monumental tower to the Battle of Pochonbo in May 2010 (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong Il is increasingly relying on his closest relative, sister Kim Kyong Hui, and her husband, Jang Song Taek, while the country undergoes a political transition.   According to the ROK Unification Ministry, Kim Jong Il has made 77 visits in the first half of 2010 (January to June), and was accompanied by his sister on 56 of those visits.  Mr. Jang accompanied Kim Jong Il on 40 occasions.  Since Jang’s promotion to NDC Vice Chairman at the 3rd plenum of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly on 7 June, he has only escorted KJI to one event (a concert given by KPA officers’ families reported on 14 June).

JoongAng Ilbo reports:

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said Monday that Kim made 77 field trips to military and industrial complexes from January to June this year, and on 56 of them he was accompanied by younger sister Kim Kyong-hui, his most constant recent companion.

Kim Kyong-hui was given a senior post at the Workers’ Party’s industrial supervision agency after Kim Jong-il reportedly had a stroke in 2008 and remained bedridden for months, according to Seoul intelligence officials.

Jang Song-thaek, Kyong-hui’s husband and one of the most powerful men in Pyongyang, accompanied the North Korean leader on 40 field trips, making him the second-most frequent companion. On June 7, Jang was promoted to vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, the most powerful institution in the country, by the Supreme People’s Assembly. The 65-year-old Jang now holds the second most powerful title in the country along with four other vice chiefs who have been in their positions for years.

“Kim has been relying more on Kyong-hui since he collapsed with a stroke in the summer of 2008,” said Kim Yun-soo, professor of national security at the Korea National Defense University. “My view is that Kim, in this delicate process of power transfer to his third son Jong-un, was convinced that his family is the only thing he can truly trust.”

Kim Kyong Hui’s presence by her brother’s side, along with that of Jang Song Taek were previously noted on this site when Jang was promoted to NDC Vice Chairman.  You can read a short biographical sketch on Ms. Kim here.

An affiliate of 38 North