By Jeong-Ho Lee
South Korean prosecutors have launched an investigation in Kim Jong Un’s sister, in a rare but symbolic gesture that risks renewing tensions with North Korea.
Kim Yo Jong and North Korean military chief Pak Jong Chon are being investigated over their involvement in the destruction of a liaison office that South Korea built north of the border, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office said Thursday. The investigation was opened in response to a criminal complaint filed by a local lawyer, the agency said.
President Moon Jae-in has so far declined to seek damages from North Korea for the June 16 bombing of the $15 million building, which was the most concrete achievement of his efforts to improve ties with Kim. North Korea announced that the building had been “tragically ruined with a terrific explosion,” blaming Moon for failing to stop activists from sending anti-Kim leaflets across the border.
Kim Yo Jong, who in 2018 became the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the presidential office in Seoul, took a high-profile role in the episode. In the days before demolition, she warned that it was “high time” to break ties with South Korea and said the next action against the “enemy” would come from the army.
Even if prosecutor’s decide to charge Kim Yo Jong or Pak, any prosecution is unlikely. Still, the decision to pursue a key member of the regime could provide North Korea with a fresh pretense to renew provocations. The probe into Kim Yo Jong was reported earlier by the Yonhap News Agency.
While Moon has refrained from seeking damages for the destruction of the liaison office, a South Korean court did award two former prisoners of war 21 million won ($17,600) earlier this month in their lawsuit against Kim Jong Un for their suffering in captivity. The younger Kim was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2017 for what the agency said was her role in censorship activities.