Kim Kyong-hui

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Kim Kyong-hui
Born (1946-05-30) 30 May 1946 (age 73)
Pyongyang, North Korea
Alma materKim Il-sung University
Moscow State University
OccupationSecretary for Organization of the Workers' Party of Korea; Korean People's Army general
Political partyWorkers' Party of Korea
Jang Sung-thaek
(m. 1972; died 2013)
ChildrenJang Kum-song (1977–2006)
Parent(s)Kim Il-sung
Kim Jong-suk
Korean name
Revised RomanizationGim Gyeonghui
McCune–ReischauerKim Kyŏnghŭi

General Kim Kyong-hui (Korean김경희; born 30 May 1946) is the aunt of current North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. She is the daughter of the founding North Korean leader Kim Il-sung and the sister of the late leader Kim Jong-il. She currently serves as Secretary for Organization of the Workers' Party of Korea. An important member of Kim Jong-il's inner circle of trusted friends and advisors,[1] she was director of the WPK Light Industry Department from 1988 to 2012.[2] Her husband was Jang Sung-taek, who was executed in December 2013 in Pyongyang, after being charged with treason and corruption.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

An idealized portrait of Kim Kyong-hui with her mother Kim Jong-suk, father Kim Il-sung and brother Kim Jong-il

Kim Kyong-hui was born in Pyongyang on 30 May 1946 to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-suk. Her mother died when she was four. After her father remarried, she was raised by various surrogates away from the family.[4]

After a brief period spent in Jilin Province, China due to the Korean War, she returned to Pyongyang with her brother, Kim Jong-il. She entered Kim Il-sung University in 1963, studying political economy, where she met her future husband, Jang Sung-taek. She and Jang continued dating after he relocated to Wonsan, allegedly because the Kim family opposed their relationship. The two eventually married in 1972. She attended the Kim Il-sung Higher Party School in 1966, and went to study at Moscow State University in 1968.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Kim and Jang had a daughter, Jang Kum-song (1977–2006), who lived overseas in Paris as an international student; she refused an order to return to Pyongyang and then reportedly committed suicide in September 2006 due to her parents' opposition to her relationship with her boyfriend.[6]


Kim Kyong-hui's political career began in 1971 with a position in the Korean Democratic Women's Union, and in 1975 she was transferred to the post of vice-director of the International Liaison Department of the Workers' Party of Korea, promoted to first vice-director in 1976. It was the period when North Korea was establishing diplomatic relations with a number of capitalist countries, like Thailand and Singapore, as well as the United Nations. She oversaw the placement of qualified diplomatic personnel during her tenure as International Department vice-director.[5]

In 1988, she was promoted to WPK Central Committee member and director of the Light Industry Department. In 1990, she was elected deputy to the Supreme People's Assembly for the first time. Her role was particularly significant as she led the Economic Policy Inspection Department, then again the Light Industry Department during the "Arduous March" period after Kim Il-sung's death.[5]

Kim Kyong-hui disappeared from the limelight in 2003, in the same period when Jang Sung-taek was apparently purged as well.[5] However, while her husband resurfaced with a high-level position in 2007, she did not appear in public until 2009, playing a more and more prominent role, accompanying Kim Jong-il to several inspection tours and attending official events. On 27 September 2010, it was announced that she was made a general in the Korean People's Army,[7] the first woman in North Korea to achieve this military rank.[8] This coincided with her nephew Kim Jong-un's promotion to the same rank.[9] A day later, the 3rd Conference of the Workers' Party elected her as a member of the Political Bureau, which is the central organization of the party. Kim Kyong-hui later continued to pose as a prominent member of the North Korean leadership under Kim Jong-un. She was elected member of the WPK Secretariat and a leading figure of the WPK Organization and Guidance Department (the foremost party department led by her uncle Kim Yong-ju until 1974, and by Kim Jong-il himself from 1974 till his death) at the 4th Party Conference in April 2012.[citation needed]

According to South Korean sources, she also worked as Kim Jong-il's personal aide.[10] Her influential position in North Korean echelons (also confirmed by Kenji Fujimoto) allowed her to maintain close relations with president Kim Yong-nam of the SPA Presidium, WPK Secretaries Choe Thae-bok and Kim Ki-nam, and Director Kim Yang-gon of the WPK United Front Department.[5] Her post as head of the Light Industry Department gave her a prominent role in shaping North Korean economic policy as it was shifting its focus on developing light industry.[11]

In 2010, Kim Kyong-hui opened the first hamburger restaurant in Pyongyang.[12]

Execution of Jang Sung-taek[edit]

On 8 December 2013, her husband, Jang Sung-taek was publicly expelled from the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. Jang was accused of factionalism, corruption, and a range of misbehaviour that included affairs with other women.[13][14] On 13 December, it was reported that he had been executed for treason.[15][16]

On 14 December, the Korean Central News Agency released a roster of six top officials appointed to a national committee in charge of organizing a state funeral for Kim Kuk-tae, a former Workers' Party official. The roster included the name of Kim Kyong-hui, indicating she had survived the purge and remained in favour.[17][18][19][20] The status of Kim Kyong-hui's relationship with Jang had been a subject of frequent speculation. Analysts believe that Jang and Kim Kyong-hui had been estranged.[17] Yoon Sang-hyun, a National Assembly of South Korea deputy floor leader of the governing Saenuri Party, said that Kim had been "separated" from Jang and did not oppose his purge.[17]

Rumours about ill health and death[edit]

In recent years, Kim Kyong-hui has been rumored to be either dead or very ill.[21] According to a report by the Daily NK in August 2012, she has suffered from ill health due to alcoholism.[22] According to Paul Fischer, who wrote "A Kim-Jong-Il Production", she has suffered from this disease every so often since at least the late 1970s. This has prompted at least one rehab trip into China for treatment.[23] At this time, it has been suggested that she has had a fatal stroke or a heart attack.[24] According to a defector, the alleged stroke came just days after Jang's execution when Kim Kyong-hui was on the phone with Kim Jong-un discussing the killing.[25] Some reports claim she has committed suicide. According to other reports, she underwent surgery for a brain tumour in 2013 and was left in a vegetative state.[21] In 2015, an unnamed source, described as a high-ranking defector, claimed that Kim Jong-un had ordered Kim Kyong-hui to be poisoned.[24] In February 2015 the South Korean National Intelligence Service stated she was still alive.[26] In 2016, historical footage of her was aired on North Korean television, indicating that she had not been removed from official history.[27] In 2017, the South Korean Yonhap News Agency reported that she was alive but receiving medical treatment.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mansourov (2004), p. IV-17
  2. ^ Baird (2003), p. 114
  3. ^ "North Korean leader's uncle 'executed over corruption'". BBC. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  4. ^ Koike, Yuriko (2010). "A ruthless sister risks becoming North Korea's next ruler". The Daily Star. Archived from the original on 18 September 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Kim Kyong Hui". North Korea Leadership Watch.
  6. ^ Yi, Yeong-jong (18 September 2006). "파리의 김정일 조카 장금송 비운의 러브스토리 (Unlucky love story of Kim Jong-il's niece in Paris)" (in Korean). JoongAng Ilbo. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2007.
  7. ^ McDonald, Mark (27 September 2010). "Kim's Son Elevated Before Meeting". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "North Korea's secretive 'first family'". BBC News. 13 December 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  9. ^ "Kim Jong-il's son promoted to rank of general". France 24. AFP. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  10. ^ Chosun Ilbo, dated 11 February 2010.
  11. ^ 2010, 2011 New Year editorials by Rodong Sinmun, Joson Inmingun, and Chongnyon Jonwi.
  12. ^ "Happy Meals in Pyongyang?". Radio Free Asia. 15 October 2010.
  13. ^ "Jang Song Thaek purge confirmed amid rumors of his execution". NK News. 9 December 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  14. ^ "Jang Arrested on State Television". Daily NK. South Korea. 9 December 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  15. ^ Alexandre Mansourov, "North Korea: What Jang's Execution Means for the Future",; 13 December 2013.
  16. ^ Alastair Gale, "What North Korea Said About Jang Song Thaek", Wall Street Journal, 13 December 2013.
  17. ^ a b c Choe Sang-hun, "Kim Jong-un's Aunt Appears to Survive Husband's Purge", The New York Times, 15 December 2013.
  18. ^ Reuters, "Kim Jong-un's aunt retains position of influence after husband's downfall", 15 December 2013.
  19. ^ "North Korean execution 'will not alter trade goals'". BBC News. 15 December 2013.
  20. ^ "North Korean leader's influential aunt remains in power after uncle Jang's execution". Reuters. 15 December 2013.
  21. ^ a b Julian Ryall (9 January 2014). "Kim Jong-un's aunt 'in vegetative state after brain surgery'". Telegraph. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  22. ^ "Alcohol A Threat To Kim Guardianship Role", Daily NK, 24 August 2012.
  23. ^ A Kim Jong-Il Production, Paul Fischer, pg 214
  24. ^ a b Hancocks, Paula (11 May 2015). "Kim ordered aunt poisoned: N. Korean defector". CNN. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  25. ^ Karimi, By Faith; Kim, Jung-eun; Kwon, Judy (28 November 2014). "N Korea source: Leader's aunt died after husband killed". CNN. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  26. ^ "Kim Jong-un aunt is still alive, says South Korean intelligence". Daily Telegraph. AFP. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  27. ^ Kim, Myong-song (19 April 2016). "Kim Jong-un's Aunt Reappears in Propaganda".
  28. ^


Party political offices
Preceded by
Kim Jong-il
Director of the Organization and Guidance Department
Succeeded by
Kim Jong-un