Kim Kyong-hui, the aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and widow of his executed uncle Jang Song-taek, is alive and well.
North Korea on Friday announced the death of a high-ranking Workers Party official and included Kim Kyong-hui's name on the list of dignitaries planning his funeral.
On the list of 54 powerful officials, she was mentioned sixth after Kim Yong-nam, the president of the North's Supreme People's Assembly, Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju, military Politburo chief Choe Ryong-hae, chief of the Army's General Staff Ri Yong-gil, and army chief Jang Jong-nam.
"By placing Kim Kyong-hui's name on the list, North Korea officially confirmed that she is alive and well," said Lee Soo-seok at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security.
Lee said no harm would be done to Kim Kyong-hui since she is a direct descendant of revered nation founder Kim Il-sung, piously referred to as the "Baekdu bloodline" after Kim's mythical birthplace.
Lim Eul-chul at Kyungnam University said the North Korean leader probably discussed the purge of her husband with his aunt. "Unlike Jang Song-taek, Kim Kyong-hui is no threat to Kim Jong-un and she is also ill, so she probably won’t be purged," Lim said.
Meanwhile, Japan's Asahi Shimbun quoted a source close to a high-ranking North Korean official as saying on Saturday that Kim Kyong-hui divorced Jang the day before his execution. The North Korean leader had ordered the divorce and that his aunt did not object.
But Saenuri Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun said there is "no confirmation" of that report.