North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s daughter made another public appearance, this time with missile scientists and more honorific titles as her father’s “most beloved” or “precious” child. She’s only about 10 years old, but her new, daring photos are fueling speculation about whether she’s being groomed as a successor.
The daughter, believed to be Kim’s second child named Ju Ae, was first revealed to the outside world last weekend in state media photos of her observing the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch the day before with her parents and other older officials.
The daughter, dressed in a white puffy coat and red shoes, was seen walking hand in hand with Kim past a massive missile loaded on a launch truck and gazing at a soaring weapon.
On Sunday, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency mentioned her for the second time, saying she and Kim posed for photos with scientists, officials, and others involved in what it called a test launch of its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile.
On Nov. 19, KCNA described her as Kim’s “most beloved” or “precious” child, a more honorific title than her previous description of “(Kim’s) beloved” child. Photos released by the state media showed the daughter in a long, black coat holding her father’s arm as the two posed for a photo. She had a more mature appearance than her unveiling a week ago, taking after her mother Ri Sol Ju, who was not visible in any of the photos Sunday.
In some photos, the couple stood in the middle of a line of uniformed soldiers in front of a massive missile atop a launch truck. Others showed Kim’s daughter clapping her hands, shaking hands with a soldier, or conversing with her father while people cheered in the background.
“This is definitely eye-catching. “The photograph of Kim Ju Ae standing alongside her father while being celebrated by technicians and scientists involved in the most recent ICBM launch would support the idea that this is the beginning of her being positioned as a potential successor,” said Ankit Panda, a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace expert.
“State media emphasizing her father’s love for her, I believe, adds to this.” Finally, both of her first public appearances have focused on strategic nuclear weapons, which are the crown jewels of North Korea’s national defence capabilities. “That doesn’t seem coincidental to me,” Panda said.
Following her first public appearance, South Korea’s spy service informed lawmakers that the girl in the picture is Kim’s second child, Ju Ae, who is about ten years old.
According to the National Intelligence Service, her appearance matched information that she is taller and bigger than other girls her age. It also stated that her unveiling appeared to reflect Kim’s determination to protect the security of future generations of North Koreans in the face of a standoff with the US.
According to South Korean media, Kim has three children, born in 2010, 2013, and 2017, with the first being a son and the third being a daughter. The unveiled daughter is almost certainly the child seen by retired NBA star Dennis Rodman during his 2013 visit to Pyongyang.
Rodman told the British newspaper The Guardian after that visit that he and Kim had a “relaxing time by the sea” with Kim’s family and that he held Kim’s baby daughter, Ju Ae.
North Korea has made no mention of Kim’s alleged two additional children. However, speculation that his eldest child is a son has led some experts to question how a daughter could be Kim’s successor given North Korean society’s deeply male-dominated, patriarchal nature.
Kim is a third-generation member of the family that has ruled North Korea for more than seven decades, with his father and grandfather preceding him in office before he took over in late 2011.
“We’ve been told that Kim has three children, possibly including a son.” Is Ju Ae truly Kim’s most ‘precious,’ from a succession standpoint, if this is true and we assume that the male child — who has yet to be revealed — will be the heir?” Soo Kim, a security analyst at the RAND Corporation in California, agreed. “I believe it is too soon to draw any conclusions.”
Kim Jong Un may believe that revealing his daughter is an effective distraction while conditioning Washington, Seoul, and others to live with the North Korean nuclear threat because “the spectacle of Ju Ae appears to eclipse the intensifying gravity of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat,” she said. She went on to say that by paraded his daughter around, Kim Jong Un may be telling his people that nuclear weapons are the only guarantee for the country’s future.
Kim described the Hwasong-17 as “the world’s strongest strategic weapon” and stated that his country’s ultimate goal is to have “the world’s most powerful strategic force.”
According to experts, the Hwasong-17 is North Korea’s longest-range missile, designed to strike the mainland United States, but it is still in development. Its launch was part of a series of missile tests conducted by North Korea in response to what it sees as an invasion rehearsal by the United States and South Korea.
“Kim may be signalling to other North Korean elites that he is mentoring his daughter for a role in leadership,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an Ewha University professor in Seoul.
“Giving her such an early and public start is unusual, but it reflects the historical and political importance Kim places on a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States,” he added.
Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang of South Korea’s private Sejong Institute believes Kim Jong Un cannot make his son his successor if he believes he lacks leadership.
Cheong believes Kim was attempting to avoid potential backlash for choosing his daughter as a fourth-generation leader by bringing her to a successful ICBM launch event, which would help public loyalty toward him be passed on smoothly to his daughter.
“When a king has many children, it’s natural for him to name his favourite child as his heir,” Cheong explained. “Kim Ju Ae is expected to appear at Kim Jong Un’s public events on occasion and to undergo succession training.”
Foreign experts were taken aback by the revelation of the young Ju Ae, as both Kim Jong Un and his father, Kim Jong Il, were first mentioned in state media dispatches after they reached adulthood.
Cheong, on the other hand, stated that Kim Jong Il had in mind Kim Jong Un as his heir when his son was 8 years old. Cheong mentioned his conversations with Kim Jong Un’s aunt and her husband, both of whom defected to the US.
The fact that the South Korean spy agency stated Ju Ae is around ten years old despite being born in 2013, could be due to the country’s age-calculating system, which typically makes people’s ages one or two years older.