• Kim Kyong-hui attended a Lunar New Year concert with the North Korean leader
  • Her husband Jang Song-thaek was once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea
Kim Kyong-hui (circled) reappeared in state media reporting on Sunday, her first such appearance in over six years. Photo: KCNA

Kim Jong-un's aunt has made a surprise public appearance, six years after her husband was executed as a traitor.

Kim Kyong-hui, 73, was with Kim Jong-un and other party officials when they watched a Lunar New Year's music performance, together with Kim Jong-un, the North's official KCNA news agency reported Sunday.

The North's top newspaper Rodon Sinmun published a picture which shows the aunt, bespectacled and wearing black Korean traditional clothes, Hanbok, sitting next to Kim Jong-un's wife Ri Sol-ju.

It listed Kim Kyong-hui's name next to the North's No 2, Choe Ryong-hae.

"This means that her familial status within the Kim dynasty remains largely intact, despite her political difficulties following her husband's execution," Professor Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University told South China Morning Post.

Kim Kyong-hui's husband Jang Song-thaek, once considered the second most powerful man in the highly hierarchical state, was executed after a special military tribunal found him guilty of treason, the North's news media has reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had his uncle Jang Song-thaek executed. File photo: AP

His execution came after he was stripped of all posts and expelled from the ruling Workers' Party for "criminal acts" including mismanagement of the state financial system, womanising and alcohol abuse.

Jang brought together "undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state," the North's official KCNA news agency said of his execution at that time.

South Korea's intelligence agency earlier reported that the anguished and grief-stricken Kim Kyong-hui had to be admitted to a sanatorium in the suburbs of Pyongyang.

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But because of Jang's reported womanising, she had in effect split with Jang before the execution and she did not belong to Jang's faction, professor Koh noted.

Her comeback comes as the North emphasises the need of unity behind the "Mountain Paektu Bloodline", a term extolling the Kim family who has been ruling the state for decades with an iron fist. Her appearance comes as the North digs itself in under US pressure to give up its nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong-un in December said his country no longer felt bound by its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, issuing a sinister warning that the world would witness a new strategic weapon "in the near future".

But analysts in Seoul said the North would not go to such an extreme as resuming such tests in coming months and would instead focus on its so-called "frontal breakthrough", an euphemism for all-out efforts to endure sanctions.

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Kim had given the United States till the end of last year to ease sanctions, complaining that its 18 months of diplomacy with Trump had got nowhere.

Kim Kyong-hui in 2011, stands behind then leader Kim Jong-il. Behind her are Kim Jong-un and Jang Song-thaek. File photo: AP

KCNA on Sunday said a troupe of musicians, singers of other major art troupes gave their performance.

"Performers sang in high praises of the greatness of the Party overcoming every description of ordeals and difficulties facing the revolution,", it said.

They also sang songs "reflecting the profound reverence for and thanks to Kim Jong-un" and revolutionary songs of the "indomitable will and spirit of all the Korean people to follow the path of loyalty indicated by him and the Party until they come to the end of the Earth".

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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