London: Even as image makers of boyish North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seek to portray him as a tough guy, it is thought to be his aunt and uncle who are pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Kim Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Sung-taek, both 66, are the Pyongyang power couple who were chosen by the late Kim Jong-il before he died in 2011 to help consolidate the authority of his son, reports the Telegraph.
Analysts believe it is no coincidence that the duo were seen last weekend sitting on either side of their nephew at a central committee session of the Workers`` Party, where Kim issued his latest defiant message to the world, vowing to maintain nuclear weapons as "the nation``s life treasure".
The speech presaged a week of escalating tensions on the peninsula as Kim threatened the US and South Korea, and moved his missile batteries into firing positions.
Miss Kim is often the only female face in official photos of ranks of grim-faced generals and party chiefs.
She is the director of the party’s Orwellian-sounding Organisation and Guidance Department, its most prestigious post.
Her husband, Mr Jang, who was Kim Jong-il’s closest confidant, is vice chairman of the National Defence Commission and the regime’s key liaison with China, whose support is the country’s economic lifeline.
The couple’s most important role is to defend the dynasty by forging the young Kim’s credentials as a powerful military figure, amid concerns that some generals in the powerful armed forces do not trust him, the report said.
North Korea has been a family affair ever since its inception in 1948 under Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994 but remains it’s Eternal President.
Miss Kim, who is the daughter of the country’s first leader, sister of its second and aunt of its third, has been a key political figure for four decades.
She disappeared from public view for six years after 2003, having apparently fallen from favour, but re-emerged more powerful than ever and was made a four-star general in 2010.
The third member of the troika guiding Kim is Choe Ryong-hae, a party bureaucrat.
The three are attempting to transform Kim into a national figurehead with a reputation as military tactician capable of handing an international crisis.