August 21, 2020 10:21
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has handed over some of his powers to his younger sister Yo-jong, the National Intelligence Service said Thursday.
Kim Yo-jong now handles any dealings with South Korea and the U.S. affairs but reports back to her brother. She was apparently given authority to blow up the inter-Korean liaison office in June.
The NIS in a briefing to the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee said the power-sharing arrangement seems aimed at "alleviating leadership strain and dividing responsibility for failed policies."
Kim Jong-un has been leading the North for nine years and is trying to avoid taking all the blame for his disastrous policies.
But the NIS believes there are "no problems" with his health. Earlier this year Kim disappeared from view for three weeks, leading to fevered speculation that he was ill.
"Although she has not been handpicked as his successor, Kim Yo-jong is virtually North Korea's second-in-command," United Future Party lawmaker Ha Tae-keung, who attended the briefing, told reporters. "Kim Jong-un still wields absolute power."
A senior NIS official said, "Kim Yo-jong is handling overall affairs in some areas but does not have the final say." She apparently compiles reports from the Workers Party and the military and passes them on to her brother, and delivers his orders to them in turn.
The North Korean leader also seems to have delegated some powers over economic matters and the military and police to other officials. Whether that augurs a more Chinese-style leadership by committee is not yet clear.
Since international sanctions intensified in 2016, pressures on Kim Jong-un have grown, and he is no longer able to focus solely on internal affairs like his father and grandfather before him.
One former Foreign Ministry official here said, "Disappointment about the failed summit with the U.S. in Hanoi last year, economic difficulties and coronavirus pandemic have acutely increased the strain on Kim Jong-un, which appears to have led to a shift in leadership method."
Meanwhile, the regime in a Politburo meeting on Wednesday admitted that its five-year economic plan has failed. The regime made the rare admission by convening a Workers Party congress next January to propose a new five-year plan.
Experts believe the North's economy is in failing due to international sanctions, the coronavirus epidemic and recent flooding.
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