(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's remarks on SLBM in paras 9-10)
SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's defense minister said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, seems to be in control of a key Workers' Party unit, as she is apparently in charge of South Korea and U.S. affairs.
Keen attention is being paid to the role and authority of Kim, whose official title is first vice department director of the Workers' Party Central Committee.
Asked by a lawmaker during a National Assembly session if she has a substantial grip on the Organization and Guidance Department of the committee, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said he thinks so.
But Kim Jong-un is believed to maintain his sole control of the party, the regime and the military, while he has delegated some "roles and responsibilities" to his aides, the minister said.
On a view that Kim's sister oversees Pyongyang's strategy on Seoul and Washington, the minister said, "It appears to be true, as she expressed so."
Jeong said there's no unusual activity by North Korea in connection with the possibility of a provocative move.
On a question about whether taking a military measure is an option to counter the North's possible provocation, he replied yes.
"No matter what the situation is, (the military) will do its best to protect the security of the Republic of Korea, the lives and property of the people," he added, using the formal name of South Korea.
Jeong also said the North is continuing to develop a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) off its eastern coast.
It has acquired the capability to fire a rocket from a fixed launcher placed under water and is conducting "various" related experiments, Jeong added.
During a separate parliamentary committee meeting, Suh Choo-suk, deputy director of national security at Cheong Wa Dae, said North Korea is known to be suffering the triple troubles of sanctions, COVID-19 and flood damages.
He predicted that North Korea's worsening economic situation will serve as a "foundation" for its push for "new changes."
Under decade of Kim's rule, N. Korea makes strides in nuke, missile capabilities
How Kim Jong-un, once a young political novice, cemented power in N. Korea in 10 years
Talks for end-of-war declaration gather pace, but skepticism lingers
N. Korea's SLBM drive aimed at regime survival, military edge, negotiation leverage: analysts
N. Korea's suspension from Olympics augurs ill for Seoul's peace efforts