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(4th LD) NK leader's younger sister reemerges after 52-day absence

All News 11:51 June 04, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS unification ministry official's comments on Kim Yong-chol in paras 8-10)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's powerful younger sister has appeared in public for the first time in 52 days, contradicting rumors that she was disciplined in the wake of the leader's embarrassing no-deal summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kim Yo-jong attended North Korea's propaganda group gymnastics and artist performance called "The Land of the People" held in Pyongyang's May Day Stadium on Monday, along with leader Kim, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

It marked the first time that Kim Yo-jong has appeared in public since she was last seen in North Korean media during the Supreme People's Assembly in April. Until then, she played the role of a personal secretary for the leader, and was seen holding an ashtray when he was having a cigarette break at a Chinese train station on his way to Vietnam for the summit with Trump.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (4th from R) waves while watching a propaganda performance called "The Land of People" held June 3, 2019, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on June 4. Kim Yo-jong (2nd from R), the leader's younger sister, also watched the performance. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The report came after rumors of a purge spiked following a news report that leader Kim had carried out a massive punishment of officials responsible for the breakdown of the Trump summit and that Kim Yo-jong was disciplined.

Adding to the rumors was her absence in the entourage of leader Kim's trip to Vladivostok in April for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. She is known for closely tagging along with leader Kim on almost all of his overseas trips.

Some speculated that her disappearance from public view might have something to do with her health.

On Monday, North Korean media reported that Kim Yong-chol, who served as the chief interlocutor and counterpart of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accompanied leader Kim to attend an artistic performance Sunday. He was also rumored to have been doing hard labor in a remote region as punishment.

A unification ministry official in Seoul told reporters that Kim Yong-chol appears to maintain his post as a vice chairman of the ruling party's central committee.

In April, Seoul's spy agency said that Kim Yong-chol had been replaced by Jang Kum-chol, an official little known to the outside, as the director of the United Front Department.

North Korea has yet to confirm the replacement. Kim's possible replacement was seen as intended to hold him accountable for the February summit breakdown.

The Hanoi summit ended without producing a deal as Kim and Trump failed to find common ground over the scope of Pyongyang's denuclearization steps and Washington's sanctions relief.

The KCNA reported that leader Kim strongly criticized the creators of the performance for "their wrong spirit of creation" and "irresponsible work attitude," pointing to its contents and forms of work.

"Noting that the creators and artists in the literature and art sector have a very important duty in socialist cultural construction, he set forth important tasks for correctly implementing the revolutionary policy of our Party on literature and art," it said.

North Korean media earlier said that the propaganda group gymnastics and art performance will be held from early June to mid-October.

This involves tens of thousands of performers displaying acrobatics, gymnastics, dance and flip-card mosaic animations. It is mostly aimed at extolling its leaders and the socialist system.


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