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Explained: Kim Jong Un’s daughter is seen more than ever. Why now?

The world knows little about Kim Jong Un’s family, children per se, but recent public appearances of his daughter have intrigued people across the world, especially those who speculate who will be the next North Korean leader—the heir of this dynasty-ruled nuclear-armed nation. Kim’s daughter, who is identified by some source-based media reports as Kim Ju Ae, is believed to be 10 years old and was recently spotted inspecting a guard of honour, among other high-profile appearances. 

She was then seen alongside her father watching a sports event, which was also attended by senior government officials and her aunt, Kim Yo Jong. 

What do we know about Kim’s daughter with absolute certainty? Basically, nothing! Not even her birth date. But when she was spotted smiling, happy, stroking her father’s face, it definitely looked cute and genuine. 

What do we know about Kim Jong Un’s children? 

Ju’s image went viral when she was seen with her father almost three months ago at the launch of North Korea’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile. 

Previously, former NBA star Dennis Rodman had confirmed her existence, who claimed to have met Kim’s baby daughter, named Ju Ae, during a 2013 visit to North Korea. 

According to media reports, Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju have three children — two girls and a boy. Ju is believed to be Kim’s second child. 

Although her name hasn’t been officially confirmed, the South Korean spy agency and some experts identify her as Ju Ae. Apart from her, there is no information available regarding his other daughter and son. 

WATCH | Kim Jong-un, daughter Ju Ae attend sports event; Ju Ae spotted for first time at non-military event 

What’s behind the recent appearances? And why North Korea is sharing the photos with the world? 

We can say… what happens in North Korea, stays in North Korea. The world sees of North Korea, what the nation and its state-controlled media want to show to the world. The nation will show missile launches, but won’t reveal the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, if the deadly virus really entered the nation. 

North Korea, especially the Kim regime is obsessively secretive with its various policies, hence the recent act of releasing Ju Ae’s images via state media is all the more mysterious. 

Some media reports claim that the North Korean leader is trying to brand himself as a family guy and as a feminist to avoid the fear of not losing behind in this “modern world”. 

But will North Korea accept a female leader? 

As quoted by the news agency AFP, Bronwen Dalton, who is the head of the department of management at the University of Technology Sydney’s business school, said that when it comes to women assuming political leadership roles, North Korea’s glass ceiling has been bulletproof. 

But she also agreed that change is afoot and the nation’s leadership is trying to “maintain its legitimacy by creating a new version of womanhood” that reflects social changes in the country over recent decades. 

North Korea was forced to adjust its archaic version of an ideal woman to some extent as the younger generations have “grown up buying and selling in markets, using mobile phones and accessing foreign media content”. 

In the current scenario, leadership has the representation of high-profile women, including foreign minister Choe Son-hui and Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong, who is a regime spokeswoman. But the leadership is predominantly male. 

Dalton told the news agency that Kim is “presiding over a propaganda apparatus forging a new narrative on the place of women”. But also added that crucially, the most important role of all North Korean women is “devotion to their ‘father’ Kim Jong Un”, and Ju Ae is perfect with this. 

Image: Kim Ju Ae attends a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea’s army, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea February 8, 2023, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Credit: Reuters. 


Image: Kim Jong Un reacts as he watches sport games in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released on February 17, 2023 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Credit: Reuters. 

Is Ju Ae the heir to Kim Jong Un’s throne? 

Some experts argue that the way Kim’s “beloved” and “respected” daughter has been projected, it looks like she is apparently the heir. However, these are mere claims as North Korea is yet to confirm. 

As quoted by the news agency AFP, Cheong Seong-chang, who is a researcher at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said that recent developments indicate North Korea has started building a “personality cult” around Ju Ae. 

Cheong added that it “signals that she has been designated as the de facto successor even though she doesn’t hold the official ‘successor’ status yet”. 

Referring to the images in which Kim’s daughter can be seen sitting next to him, surrounded by the nation’s top brass, Cheong said that it suggests that Kim Ju Ae will “become the supreme commander of the military in the future”. 


Image: Kim Jong Un, his wife Ri Sol Ju and their daughter Kim Ju Ae attend a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea February 8, 2023, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Credit: Reuters. 

Amid the releases of photos in the media for public, South Korea said that it’s too early to say whether the recently unveiled daughter of the North Korean leader is being groomed as his successor. 

Kwon Youngse, who is Unification Minister and South Korea’s top official on North Korea, was asked about Kim’s daughter during a parliamentary committee meeting in Seoul. 

Kwon told lawmakers: “There are views that (her appearances) are aimed at talking about a hereditary power transition.” 

“But considering Kim Jong Un’s age and the fact that North Korea has a much more patriarchal nature than ours, there are also lots of questions about whether North Korea having a woman (prepared to) inherit power now is indeed right,” Kwon added. 

The main motive behind her public appearances remains a mystery, but she has definitely emerged as someone who could be assigned a leadership role by her father. 

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