North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has handed part of his power to his sister Kim Yo Jong, the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) was quoted as saying in a closed door briefing to the National Assembly with South Korean lawmakers on Thursday.
After the meeting, South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-keung told media, "Yo Jong is currently steering overall state affairs based on the partial authority handover." Ha emphasized Jong Un still exercises absolute power, but that he has transferred some of his power.
But he also clarified that, "It doesn't mean that (Jong Un) has chosen his successor."
While Yo Jong is not officially Jong Un's successor however, NIS said his younger sister is the second most powerful person in the country.
According to the lawmaker, Yo Jong has been delegated the authority to oversee policies with the U.S. and South Korea. She is also not the only one who has been granted shared authority with her brother, although she is the one who got transferred the most power.
Pak Pong Ju, the vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission and Kim Tok Hun, the new Premier, have been handed some authority over controlling the economy. Choe Pu Il, the party's department director for military affairs and Ri Pyong Chol, the vice chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, have taken partial authority of the military.
According to NIS, this massive move aims to achieve two main goals: to relieve the Supreme Leader's stress, and to avoid responsibility for his policies' failures.
On Thursday, in an unusual move, North Korea admitted their economic plan had failed. People's living standard had also "not been improved remarkably," the Central Committee of the Workers' Party said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
This, rather than his health, is what allegedly drove the decision.
"There seems to be no (health) issues at all. Based on multiple sources, it is wrong to say that (Kim has health issues). This is my opinion," another representative lawmaker Kim Byung-kee who attended the NIS meeting with Ha told media.
Ha also echoed this. "There was no mention of his health at all in the meeting."
There have long been speculations about Jong Un's deteriorating health which has also spurred rumours that Yo Jong could be the next Supreme Leader, following recent high-profile public engagements. The 32-year-old is the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, with his second mistress.
In an earlier VICE News interview with Koreas expert Lee Sung-yoon, he emphasized that while Yo Jong could take over, "it is entirely possible that [she] will prove even more tyrannical than her brother or father or grandfather."
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