The daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un makes her first public appearance

Remark

North Korea has revealed leader Kim Jong-un’s daughter for the first time, ending years of speculation about her existence.

Photos released by state media on Saturday show Kim holding his young daughter at a missile launch site and inspecting a missile. Another photo showed the couple, this time accompanied by Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, on an observation deck during a rocket launch. The photos are from Friday’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch — the second launch of its kind this month — according to state media.

It is the first time North Korea has named Kim’s daughter, although state media did not reveal her name or age, identifying her only as Kim’s “beloved daughter.”

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Although the child was not named, observers believe her name is Kim Ju Ae. Her name was first revealed in 2013 by retired NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said he met the leader’s “baby” daughter after a visit to North Korea.

According to Shreyas Reddy, a correspondent for the North Korean website NK News, this is the first time state media has reported on one of Kim’s children. South Korean intelligence officials believe the North Korean leader fathered two other children, born in 2010 and 2017, though their names and gender are unknown.

“Her first public appearance at such a young age is significant in itself and a break from tradition, but it is all the more remarkable that she was introduced both to the country and to the rest of the world at an event so was prominent as the launch of North Korea’s largest missile,” Reddy told The Washington Post. “While we can say it’s definitely an important moment, we can’t be sure what the target is at this early stage.”

“Some prominent North Korean defectors told us that this clearly marks her as a successor to Kim Jong Un, a huge change in Pyongyang’s largely male-dominated leadership and a break from the patrilineal rule of the Kim family,” he said. Others suggested the move was instead an attempt to humanize the North Korean leader, he added.

Kim Jong Un has been in power for 11 years and is the third generation of his family to rule the secretive country since it was founded in 1948 by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

There are few confirmed details about Kim’s private life. Speculation about a possible successor began in 2020 when he was rumored to be seriously ill, although South Korean officials questioned the reports due to a lack of evidence. He returned to the public eye the following year looking noticeably slimmer, raising questions about the possible reasons for his sudden weight loss.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, has also played an important role in public life.

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