Asia-Pacific

Kim Jong-un's aunt returns to public spotlight, six years after her husband was executed

Kim Kyong-hui, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's aunt, attends a national memorial service of late leader Kim Jong-il. Source: Kyodo News

The aunt of Kim Jong-un has emerged from the shadows, making her first public appearances since her husband was executed six years ago.

The influential aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made her first public appearance in six years after her husband was executed in a purge.

Kim Kyong-hui is the sister of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, and took a leading role during the first years of current leader Kim Jong-un's rule.

She had largely disappeared from public view since 2013, after Kim Jong-un ordered the execution of her husband, Jang Song-thaek, seen as the second most powerful man in the North at the time.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, along with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui, in February 2013.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, along with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui, in February 2013.
KRT via AP Video

On Sunday, state media showed Kim Kyong-hui sitting near Kim Jong-un at a performance celebrating the Lunar New Year in Pyongyang.

"Many North Korea watchers had assumed that Kim Kyong-hui had gone into exile or even killed in the wake of her husband's death, so to see her pop up by the leader's side some six years later is certainly a surprise," said Oliver Hotham, managing editor of NK News, a Seoul-based organisation that monitors North Korea.

Kim Kyong-hui and her husband were once a power couple that formed a kind of regency in the political world of the North behind its young and mercurial leader, who succeeded his father in December 2011.

Kim Kyong-hui's reappearance in a position of prominence suggests she has retained, or at least regained an influential position behind the scenes, Mr Hotham said, noting that state media listed her after North Korea's nominal No. 2, Choe Ryong-hae.

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