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Who is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister warning the US of ‘overwhelming action’?

Kim Yo-jong’s status in North Korea is shrouded in secrecy but her public appearances alongside her brother have increased in recent years  (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Kim Yo-jong’s status in North Korea is shrouded in secrecy but her public appearances alongside her brother have increased in recent years (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has issued a stern warning that her country is ready to take “quick and overwhelming” action against the US and South Korea.

Kim Yo-jong — said to be “influential” in the ranks of North Korea — spoke a day after a joint American and South Korean military drill involving a B-52 bomber was held on Monday.

The flight over the Korean Peninsula was the latest in a series of drills between the allies in recent months.

North Korea has said its nuclear weapons and missile programmes are for self-defence. It says US-South Korea military exercises are rehearsals for an invasion.

“It will be regarded as a clear declaration of war against the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] DPRK, in case such military response as interception takes place against our tests of strategic weapons,” Ms Kim said.

“The Pacific Ocean does not belong to the dominium of the U.S. or Japan.”

So who is the mysterious Kim Yo-jong? Here’s what we know.

Who is Kim Yo-jong?

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP)
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP)

Nobody knows much about her but she is a senior North Korean official helping to oversee the country’s policies. She is believed to be at least 33, with South Korea’s Unification Ministry database of North Korean officials listing her as being born in 1988 in Pyongyang.

Seoul’s Intelligence Agency says she works in particular on the country’s relationships with other countries. It has been reported that she is the nominal head of the North’s “propaganda and agitation” department.

Her public profile has increased significantly in the past few years. She attended all three face-to-face meetings between her brother and former US President Donald Trump, working as the North Korean leader’s confidante and adviser.

Her marital status is unknown, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, the US newspaper says some South Korean news outlets have mentioned she may have married the son of a prominent North Korean official, Choe Ryong Hae, Kim Jong-un’s deputy in the state affairs commission — the government’s most-powerful decision-making apparatus.

It is rumoured that she is next in line to be the country’s Supreme Leader.

How much power does she have?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his sister Kim Yo Jong. (REUTERS)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his sister Kim Yo Jong. (REUTERS)

The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2020, she started signing off on official government statements that criticised the US.

She has hit out at the Joe Biden administration in the last three years, labelling it “hypocrites” over its nuclear policy, as well as at South Korea.

In April 2022, she spoke out against remarks made by South Korea’s defence minister Suh Wook about Seoul’s military capabilities against Pyongyang.

The Guardian reported her saying the country’s nuclear forces would “annihilate” the South Korean military if it launched a pre-emptive strike against the regime.

She said the North did not want to start a second Korean war, but would respond if provoked and leave the South’s military in a state of “total destruction and ruin”.

What is her relationship like with Kim Jong-un?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (AP)

North Korea experts say Ms Kim is “likely the only adviser that Kim Jong-un trusts” because she is a blood relative.

She has appeared alongside her brother more and more in recent years on his few-and-far-between public appearances, and is said to be a “quiet voice in his ear.”

Could she succeed him as North Korea’s leader?

Because of the secrecy that shrouds North Korea, and its alleged ability to execute any North Korean who speaks out about the regime, no one really knows how the country runs for certain.

Traditionally, in the past two successions that have occurred in the country since its founding in 1948, the leader has handpicked and groomed an adult son to succeed him upon his death.