North Korea’s secretive leader, Kim Jong-un, may have up to three children, but many Korea-watchers believe the country’s next leader will be a woman.

Kim Yo-jong, the supreme leader’s sister, first started attracting attention in 2014, when she accompanied her brother in the Supreme People's Assembly.

In 2018, she became the first member of the communist republic’s ruling dynasty to visit South Korea.

Many other members of the Kim family have met untimely ends. Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half brother was mysteriously poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia in 2017.

His uncle, Jang Song-thaek, was accused of working against the Kim régime and reportedly executed by firing squad in 2013.

Numerous other top officials have been purged, including Vice Minister of the Army Kim Chol who was reportedly executed by artillery fire and deputy security minister O Sang-hon who was executed by flamethrower.

Kim Yo-jong, 34, runs Pyongyang’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, and is thought to have been behind the destruction of a building set up near the border to facilitate liaison between North and South Korea.

Last year, Kim Jong-un, 39, handed his sister the authority to manage certain "general state affairs" to help lighten his own workload.

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In September this year it was reported that she had also been promoted to the State Affairs Commission of North Korea.

At the same time nine members of the Commission retired or were demoted, including Pak Pong Ju, a veteran adviser who had been in charge of the country’s economic policy for several years.

According to South Korean intelligence expert Kim Byung-kee, Kim Yo-jong is now the country's "de-facto second in command”.

Kim himself is believed to be in poor health, although he has lost a good deal of weight lately he is still thought to be a heavy smoker and drinker, and and maintains a hectic schedule.

The children he shares with wife Ri Sol-ju, are all thought to be under the age of eleven.

If Kim were to die before they reached adulthood, say North Korea experts, Kim Yo-jong would be the obvious choice to take over – or at least establish some kind of regency until one of his children were old enough to take the reins.

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