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(2nd LD) Kim Jong-un delegated partial authority to sister: spy agency

North Korea 20:31 August 20, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with Kim's public activities in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has delegated part of his authority to his close aides, including younger sister Yo-jong, to have them oversee state affairs, South Korea's spy agency said Thursday.

"Currently, Kim Yo-jong, the first vice department director of the Workers' Party Central Committee, is steering overall state affairs based on the delegation," the National Intelligence Service was quoted as saying in a closed-door briefing to the National Assembly by lawmakers.

This graphic image provided by Yonhap News TV shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Chairman Kim Jong-un is still maintaining his absolute authority, but some of it has been handed over little by little," the agency said. "Yo-jong is the de-facto No. 2 leader, but (the North Korean leader) has not selected a successor."

According to the NIS, she has assumed the majority of the authority from her brother, but she is not the only one who has shared power with him.

Pak Pong-ju, vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, and the new premier Kim Tok-hun have taken over power in controlling the economic sector, it added.

Park Jie-won, the director of the National Intelligence Service, and other agency officials attend a parliamentary session on Aug. 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

The leader's sister was put in charge of policy towards South Korea and the United States and other general issues.

In terms of the military, Choe Pu-il, the party's department director for military affairs, and Ri Pyong-chol, vice chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, have assumed partial authority, according to the NIS.

The power shift partly aims to "relieve (Kim's) stress from his reign and avert culpability in the event of policy failure," the agency said.

The NIS also said the 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex is not currently in operation.

It also noted that the North Korean army's summertime military exercises have been slashed by 25 to 65 percent from the past.

On the diplomacy front, the NIS said Pyongyang is juggling the dual policy direction of declaring the country's nuclear deterrence build-up while paving a way for negotiations with the U.S.

Due to recent heavy rains, the country has also sustained massive flooding of farming fields that is worse than the serious damage reported in 2016, the agency added.

Meanwhile, the NIS noted that the North Korean leader has increased the number of his public activities since July.

Kim made 132 public appearances this year as of Aug. 20, down 65 percent from the same period of last year, it told the lawmakers. Of the total, 13, or 39 percent, came since July, it added.

"Ahead of the 75th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Workers Party (on Oct. 10), with no tangible (policy) accomplishments, he has been increasing public activities since July," it was quoted as saying.

Kim is focusing more on presiding over party sessions than making on-site visits, it added.


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