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The little known story of Ko Yong-Hui

Ko Yong-Hui portrait

Even if you are not all that into North Korea, there is a decent chance you would have seen, or heard of Chairman Kim Jong-Un. You will also probably (we hope) be aware that he is the son of the second leader of North Korea, General Kim Jong-Il.

For people with a slightly geekier knowledge of the country, you’d know that he is the grandson of President Kim Il-Sung and Mother Kim Jong-Suk.

But there’s also a high chance you do not know who the mother of Kim Jong-Un is. We present the little known story of Ko Yong-Hui.

Beginnings of a Relationship

Make no mistake the 1970’s were a strange time in North Korea. The earlier economic superiority it had over south Korea was waning, the cult of personality around President Kim Il-Sung was being pushed heavily and the country was drifting towards the state ideology of Juche from its Marxist-Leninist roots.

Also during this time there were not all that many prominent women, like pretty much none. In fact this lack of women would continue until the current times, with the exception of the promotion of the already dead Mother Kim Jong-Suk. But whilst not centre stage, women certainly held court behind the scenes, with Ko Yong-Hui being no exception.

The Love Life of Kim Jong-Il

In contrast to how we see Kim Jog-Un and his wife today, the love life of Kim Jong-Il was largely kept secret from the prying eyes of the public. We know that he was married at least twice and that Ko Yong-Hui was the last of his major lovers, but what else do we know?

The Story of Ko Yong-Hui

Ko Yong-Hui and young Kim Jong-Un

Ko Yong-Hui did not exactly have a normal North Korean life, being born in Japan to a Korean Chongryon father and an ethically Japanese mother. Around this time the DPRK pushed heavily to have ethnic Koreans in Japan return to the motherland, which is exactly what Ko Yong-Hui did. We know that she lived in Pyongyang and joined the Mansudae Art Troupee in the 1970s, which is where it is assumed she met Leader Kim Jong-Il.

Little is known about their subsequent relationship except that she would give birth to Kim Jong un in 1983 and then 4 years later, Kim Yo Jong, his now famous sister who is getting even more prominence in the country and has even been touted as a future leader.

What happened in the intermittent years is a bit sketchy. We know that Kim Jong-Un studied in Switzerland where he was looked after by the sites of Ko. We also know that the sister of Ko and her husband defected to the USA, where they now run a dry cleaners and of course that Chairman Kim Jong-Un is now paramount leader of the DPRK, but what happened to Ko?

Ko allegedly dies from cancer in the early 2000’s and it is from here that people assumed her legacy would be forgotten, but then Kim Jong-Il decided on his heir. It is traditional to “big up” the mother of any potential future leader so in 2008 nice things were again being said about Ko Yong-Hui, with her son eventually taking over the firm after the death of Kim Jong-Il.

She might not have been famous in here day, but its perhaps her influence which sees some many prominent women taking part in the politics of North Korea.

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