The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened a new rhetorical attack on their neighbor, slamming South Korea for spying on its actions during a rare party congress that included a military parade in Pyongyang.
Kim Yo Jong, in a statement released by the state’s official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday condemned South Korean for taking a “hostile approach toward fellow countrymen in the North,” and called the country’s intelligence officials “idiots,” for paying so much attention to what Pyongyang was doing during the gathering.
Her comments followed the rare eight-day ruling party congress that concluded Tuesday. Her brother Kim Jong Un outlined Pyongyang’s military goals during the gathering of party officials that included boosting his nuclear arsenal in the face of U.S. “hostilities.”
“The southerners are a truly weird group that’s hard to understand,” she said, criticizing South Korea’s military intelligence for tracking the movements in Pyongyang. She also disclosed that North Korea may have held a military parade Sunday night.
“Why do they crane their necks to follow what’s happening in the North?” Kim Yo Jong said, according to the KCNA report.
Her comments come after South Korean President Moon Jae-in made a fresh appeal this week for cooperation between the neighbors on the heavily armed peninsula.
Despite a litany of insults and provocations, which included the June destruction of a joint liaison office just north of the border that was the president’s most tangible symbol of his reconciliation push, Moon has steadfastly embraced rapprochement with Pyongyang, which has shown no interest in taking aid he has offered.
During the ruling party congress, leader Kim declared the U.S. the “biggest main enemy” and said he would do “everything” to advance Pyongyang’s nuclear and military capabilities, laying out a renewed diplomatic challenge to the incoming administration of Joe Biden.
North Korea is due to convene its parliament on Jan. 17, KCNA said, a meeting that could give further indications about how it will engage with Seoul and Biden.
The state has not yet aired footage of the military parade, after it broadcast a slickly edited program hours after an October parade that was the biggest display of new weaponry in years. The event with thousands of goose-stepping soldiers included a new intercontinental ballistic missile that experts said was designed to deliver multiple nuclear warheads to the U.S.
Kim Yo Jong’s status has changed from first deputy director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea to vice department director of the Central Committee of WPK, according to KCNA, in what appears to be a demotion in the party structure.
But the sister who was reportedly dubbed “Princess Yo Jong” by her father and former leader Kim Jong Il is a direct bloodline member of the ruling family, a status that exceeds posts in the party structure. Her name is still being called before most other party officials in the state broadcasts.
Kim Yon Jong’s statement “shows that she is still in charge of South Korean affairs, regardless of her official title,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a fellow at the Wilson Center based in Washington. “We can’t say that her political status has declined.”
Kim saw her profile rise among political analysts as the likely successor to her brother when a prolonged absence in April raised questions about his health. She also took a more prominent role on policies toward the country’s two biggest adversaries, the U.S. and South Korea.
Questions about her position were raised a few months later after she went missing from state media after a mention in July, when she joined her brother on an inspection tour of a chicken farm that included a glimpse of her picking up a cigarette butt from her older sibling. Her next appearance was in October, when she joined her brother and a handful of other top cadres on a tour to inspect reconstruction work to repair damage caused by massive flooding.