SEOUL • The younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Ms Kim Yo Jong, has again made a public appearance in the North's dealings with the South, raising speculation about her role in the regime.
On Monday, Ms Kim, who serves as the first vice-director of the North's Workers' Party Central Committee, accompanied her brother to a meeting with Seoul's special envoys, and later to a welcome dinner in Pyongyang.
The special envoys, led by National Security Office chief Chung Eui Yong, arrived in Pyongyang on Monday for a two-day visit. In an unusual move, Mr Kim Jong Un received the envoys on the first day of their visit and hosted a welcome dinner.
At the meeting held ahead of the dinner, the only other North Korean present was senior official Kim Yong Chol, further fuelling speculation about Ms Kim's rising status. Mr Kim Yong Chol is vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party and the chief of Pyongyang's organ for dealing with the South.
Unlike the two Kims of North Korea's ruling family, Mr Kim Yong Chol rose to power through long years of service.
He is accused of being the mastermind behind the North's operations against the South, including the 2010 torpedo attack on the South Korean naval warship Cheonan which killed 46 sailors.
According to experts, Ms Kim may have played a central role in recent developments in inter-Korean relations.
"There is a possibility that Kim Yo Jong had a significant part in designing the recent changes in relations," political analyst Hong Min, director of the North Korean studies division at the Korea Institute for National Unification, was quoted as saying by a local news agency.
Mr Hong added that Ms Kim appeared to be playing the role of chief of staff to her brother.
Regardless of her status within the North's state organs, Ms Kim has already played a central role in recent inter-Korean developments.
The younger Kim travelled to the South on Feb 9 as her brother's special envoy, tasked with delivering his letter to South Korean President Moon Jae In and to extend his offer of an inter-Korean summit.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK