Kim Jong-un’s sister calls South Korean defence minister a ‘lunatic’

Remark comes amid tensions and rhetoric about nuclear attack and pre-emptive strikes

Kim Jong-un’s sister has issued a furious tirade against South Korea’s defence minister, describing his comments about Seoul’s pre-emptive strike capabilities as a “fantastic daydream” and the “hysteria of a lunatic”.

In comments published in North Korea's state Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Tuesday, Kim Yo-jong, a high-ranking official and a close aide to her older brother, said that while South Korea was not Pyongyang's "principal enemy", its army faced "extermination" if it confronted North Korea.

“In case South Korea adopts military confrontation against us, our nuclear combat forces are inevitably obliged to carry out their mission,” said Ms Kim. “If the situation develops to such an extent, a terrible attack would be mounted and the South Korean army would have no other choice but to suffer the tragic lot of extermination.”

Ms Kim's statement came amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang last month conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017.


The threat followed comments issued on Sunday and broadcast on state television in which Ms Kim described Suh Wook, the South Korean defence minister, as a "senseless and scum-like guy".

Mr Suh was targeted after he described the South Korean military’s “capabilities and posture to conduct a precision strike against the launch point” of a North Korean missile attack.

‘Kill chain’

South Korea’s defence strategy envisages “kill chain” pre-emptive strikes against North Korean missile systems in the face of an imminent attack.

"Pre-emptive strikes are one of the actions accepted in the world, including at the UN, as being usable not in a preventative sense but when a pre-emptive threat persists," a spokesperson for Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea's conservative president-elect, told reporters. Mr Yoon assumes office in May.

“The defence minister’s comments were describing what’s quietly been South Korea’s policy for a while now, but something the outgoing administration had preferred to leave unsaid publicly,” said Ankit Panda, a nuclear weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"North Korea loathes any suggestion of pre-emptive intent on the part of South Korea or the United States. The response was predictable, but it may tee up a more dangerous period on the peninsula as a new administration enters office in the South."

‘Monster’ missile

North Korea claimed last month to have successfully tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile yet, boasting that its nuclear forces were “fully ready to thoroughly check and contain any dangerous military attempts of the US imperialists”.

But it soon emerged that the regime had attempted to pass off a failed test of its Hwasong-17 ICBM – North Korea’s “monster missile” – as a success.

South Korea believes that North Korea tested a smaller Hwasong-15 ICBM, previously tested in 2017, which it then attempted to present to the world as a new missile.

But analysts warned that the West's focus on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, deteriorating US-China relations, a more confrontational administration in Seoul and the increasing sophistication of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme augured badly for east Asian security.

"North Korea's newfound confidence as a nuclear power and expanded capabilities overall would set any upcoming rise in tensions apart from past episodes," said Mr Panda.

“I do have serious concerns that stability on the peninsula will be ever-fragile as both Koreas harbour intentions to pre-empt the other in a crisis.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022