A new report said this week that Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the first Deputy director of the United Front Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), was “broadly involved” in a recent government report blaming South Korea for the late October shooting of a South Korean fisheries official—one that the U.N. has blamed on North Korea.
According to Daily NK, this came after Kim Yo-jong was “angered by public discussion of North Korea’s human rights situation by UN officials.” Per Daily NK’s source, she pushed the Central Committee’s United Front Department to write the report.
“[T]he recent inglorious incident in the waters of the West Sea of Korea was the result of improper control of the citizen by the south side in the sensitive hotspot at a time when there are tension and danger due to the vicious virus sweeping the whole of south Korea,” the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s state news agency, wrote October 29, per Daily NK’s translation.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special envoy on North Korea’s human rights situation, attributed the killing of the forty-seven-year-old fisheries official to North Korea, and also denounced the killing as violation of international human rights law, per Yonhap News. That report stated that North Korea’s government has apologized, but has not agreed to a joint probe.
Quintana, back in October, urged easing of sanctions on North Korea, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, per Reuters.
In the statement through KCNA, North Korea also directly criticized South Korea’s government, including its opposition party, the People Power Party.
“[T]he conservative forces of south Korea including the ‘People Power Party’ with the idea of confrontation with the fellow countrymen steeped into the marrows of their bones are working with bloodshot eyes to slander their fellow countrymen in the north under such rhetoric as ‘atrocity’ and ‘human rights abuses,” the statement said, per Daily NK. “They are also raising a hue and cry, going imprudent, in order to make the recent incident an opportunity for attaining their dirty political purposes.”
Kim Yo-Jong has often been particularly critical of South Korea, on behalf of the regime, including during a June flare-up.
Will these lead to increased tensions between the two Koreas?
“Dramatic, controversial incidents between North and South Korea are relatively common, but that the countries don’t usually seem to me to come close to war,” Robert de Neufville, of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, told The National Interest. “That doesn’t mean this incident couldn’t be a significant turning point—and, again, I haven’t been following the details—but that most incidents don’t actually escalate that far.”
Meanwhile, South Korea’s government said this week that it’s prepared to work with whoever emerges as the winner of this week’s American presidential election.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.