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Promotion for Kim Jong Un, With Possible Dis for Sis

N. Korean leader is now general secretary of ruling party, while Kim Yo Jong gets demoted—but why?
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2021 9:30 AM CST
Promotion for Kim Jong Un, With Possible Dis for Sis
In this Sept. 19, 2018, file photo, Kim Yo Jong, right, helps her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sign a joint statement following the summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP, File)

(Newser) – Kim Jong Un can now count himself among the same ranks as his late father and grandfather after receiving a coveted promotion from chairman to general secretary of North Korea's Workers' Party on Sunday. The nation's state media describes Kim's new role as "the brain of the revolution," though the Wall Street Journal notes he's expected to still hold full control over all aspects of running things. But there was also a bit of a surprise when, during elections on the sixth day of the rare party congress meeting, one big name was left off the list of members for the party's decision-making body. Kim Yo Jong, Kim's Jong Un's powerful sister, remains on the main Central Committee, but her name was absent from the politburo membership released by the state's KCNA on Monday, per Reuters. She had been an alternate member and was widely expected to nab a full-time seat.

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"Kim Jong Un might think that it is better not to give an official position for his sister because if he did, she could grab her own power network," an international studies professor at Handong Global University tells the Journal. Reuters calls the move on Kim Yo Jong filled with "mixed signals," with the South China Morning Post noting this may simply be the North Korean leader's way of protecting his sister by keeping her out of the international spotlight. Still, observers say Kim Yo Jong has been labeled her brother's "de facto second in command" and is likely to remain a major force. "What official position or rank Kim Yo Jong has doesn't matter anymore," an instructor of North Korean studies at Seoul's Ewha Womans University tells the Journal. "She earlier had an official position to help establish her name within North Korea. ... Her clout will remain unchanged." (Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)

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