What Now for Kim Jong-un's Aunt?

The fate of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's aunt Kim Kyong-hui is unclear after the ouster of her powerful husband Jang Song-taek.

Kim Kyong-hui's whereabouts are unknown, but experts believe she is relatively safe due to the reverence in which the regime holds the direct descendants of nation founder Kim Il-sung, who are piously referred to as the "Baekdu bloodline," after Kim senior's alleged birthplace.

Kim Kyong-hui (far left) is seen at a ground-breaking ceremony for a national cemetery for fallen soldiers in Pyongyang on July 25, 2013 in this video grab from North Korean Central TV. Kim Kyong-hui (far left) is seen at a ground-breaking ceremony for a national cemetery for fallen soldiers in Pyongyang on July 25, 2013 in this video grab from North Korean Central TV.

Her marriage to Jang has also been on the rocks for some time and she has kept her political distance.

"In all probability, Kim Kyong-hui only reluctantly maintained ties with Jang while former leader Kim Jong-il was alive," Prof. Kim Keun-sik of Kyungnam University said. "It appears they broke up after his death, so there's no reason to believe their fates remain intimately linked. Kim Kyong-hui will probably maintain her status since she is the only person in the upper echelons besides Kim Jong-un to be descended from Kim Il-sung."

Some experts believe Kim Kyong-hui may even have taken the lead in Jang's ouster.

"It seems likely that Kim Jong-un joined hands with Kim Kyong-hui and military Politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae to oust Jang," speculates Chung Young-tae of the Korea Institute for National Unification. "In that case she will probably have secured her position."

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 10, 2013 11:56 KST