By John Ikani
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s young daughter, Kim Ju Ae, previously seen alongside him during missile tests and military parades, has been identified by the South’s spy agency as his “most likely” successor.
This marks the first official acknowledgement of Kim Ju Ae’s potential role in the leadership succession plan.
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) highlighted her public presence since late 2022 and, based on a comprehensive analysis, deemed her the primary candidate for succession.
Nevertheless, the NIS remains open to “all possibilities” given Kim Jong Un’s youth, good health, and various factors at play.
Kim Ju Ae, believed to be around 10 years old and the second oldest among Kim Jong Un’s children, has been increasingly prominent in public appearances.
South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yung-ho, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the significance of the continuous attention on Kim Jong Un’s daughter as a signal of North Korea hastening to communicate succession intentions amid internal challenges.
Observers note a shift in language, as Miss Kim is now referred to as a “respected” daughter rather than a “beloved” one, reflecting a change in status.
In North Korea, the term “respected” is reserved for the highest reverence, similar to how Kim Jong Un himself was referred to as a “respected comrade” when his future leadership was established.
The careful choice of words underlines the importance of maintaining the sacred bloodline narrative in North Korea, where only members of the Kim family are deemed fit to lead the country.
Miss Kim’s recent involvement in high-profile events, such as accompanying her father during missile tests and military parades, suggests a deliberate effort by Kim Jong Un to introduce her to the public eye.
Analysts speculate that this early exposure aims to establish her presence and potentially overcome patriarchal prejudices in North Korea, a country yet to be led by a woman.
Kim Jong Un may be ensuring a smooth transition to the fourth generation of leadership by showcasing his daughter’s capabilities well in advance.
The revelation of Kim Ju Ae’s existence traces back to 2013 when former NBA star Dennis Rodman, after a controversial trip to North Korea, disclosed spending time with Kim Jong Un’s family and holding their baby.
The North Korean leader has maintained an exceptionally secretive stance regarding his family, with even his wife Ri Sol Ju being kept undisclosed until some time after their marriage.