Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Mystery surrounds her official position, but many things are known about her. Photo: AFP/Jorge Silva

In early 2018, a surprise new adjective started to circulate in discussions among the usually staid community of North Korea watchers.

The adjective was “hot.” More surprisingly, it was applied to a member of the ruling Kim Dynasty: Kim Yo Jong, the 20-something younger sister of national leader Kim Jong Un.

In a realm where the power players tend to be unsmiling, ancient males with a penchant for survival, the slim, photogenic Kim was a wholly different beast: young, female and empowered, with the sacred “Mount Paektu blood” running through her veins.