North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s aunt and Jang Song Thaek’s wife, Kim Kyong Hui, has died, a report said on Tuesday.
Notably, Kim had reportedly executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek last month. Chosun Ilbo, a major newspaper, has quoted a source in the South Korean government as saying that Kim Kyong Hui, 67, has either “committed suicide or died from a heart attack”. South Korean intelligence sources have yet to confirm the news.
According to the Daily NK, a dissident newspaper based in Japan, Kim Kyong Hui travelled to Russia for medical treatment after suffering a heart attack due to stress in the wake of Jang’s purge and execution. Kim is the sister of North Korea’s former leader Kim Jong-il, and has served as secretary for the party and held the rank of general in the Korean People’s Army.
The last time she was seen in the public was on September 10, when she attended a musical performance with Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju. However, she did not attend the ceremony commemorating the second anniversary of the death of her late brother, Kim Jong Il, on December 17.
“It would not come as a surprise if she is indeed dead,” Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, told The Daily Telegraph. “She is not well, she has been treated for cancer, and the alcoholism dates back about 30 years.”
Kim Kyong Hui has held several top positions within her country’s government, including secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party and a four-star Army general, according to a news agency. She and Jang had one daughter who committed suicide in 2006 while studying in Paris.
“If she is dead, then this is a serious problem for Kim Jong-un,” Shigemura told The Telegraph. “As the sole daughter of the founder of the nation, she had both authority and legitimacy and she used that to protect Kim Jong-un’s government. She was the sun and he was the moon.”