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N. Korean leader's only sister seen to have growing power

All Headlines 17:31 February 17, 2010

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's only sister appears to be assuming increasingly strong political power in the North's regime, Seoul's Unification Ministry said Wednesday, releasing the latest diagram of the communist state's power structure.

The ministry included Kim Kyong-hui, 64, the younger sister of leader Kim, in the 2010 diagram of the North's power structure, reinforcing views that the family line enjoys an increasing political clout in the secretive country.

The diagram, updated annually by the Unification Ministry, offers a glimpse into changes in the North Korean elite power system, which runs a massive personality cult built around the 68-year-old Kim and his family.

The ministry said the younger Kim and her organization were newly added to the diagram after she returned to the public spotlight in June last year for the first time in nearly six years.

"She has been very active in accompanying her brother in field inspections in recent months. It's quite a change considering she had been out of the public view since September 2003," a ministry official said, declining to be named.

Since the mid-1980s, the younger Kim is believed to have headed an organ under the ruling Workers' Party that oversaw the country's light industries. Four years younger than Kim Jong-il, she is married to Jang Song-thaek, a member of the National Defense Commission, the highest decision-making body in Pyongyang.

Her return to the public eye as a top industrial official reflects Pyongyang's resolve to resuscitate its economy and pave the ground for a family power succession, another official said.

In its New Year's message, the impoverished North vowed to raise living standards for its people by boosting light industries and agriculture.

"Light industries play an important role in reaching the goal for North Korea to become a 'strong and prosperous nation'" in 2012, the centennial of late North Korea founder Kim Il-sung's birth, the official said.

Kim Jong-il inherited power from his father, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. South Korean intelligence officials say Kim has increasingly relied on his family to exercise his power after he survived a stroke in the summer of 2008.

They also say economic revitalization would make easy Kim Jong-il's own father-to-son power succession as he apparently tries to hand the reigns to his third son, Jong-un.

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