North Korea unveiled Kim Jong Un’s daughter at a missile launch site

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has unveiled the little-known daughter of its leader Kim Jong Un at a missile launch site, drawing wide attention to a fourth-generation member of the dynastic family that has ruled North Korea for more than seven decades.

North state media said Saturday that Kim watched the launch of his new breed of ICBM with his wife Ri Sol Ju, their “beloved daughter” and other officials the previous day. Kim said the launch of the Hwasong-17 missile — the North’s longest-range nuclear-capable missile — proved he had a reliable weapon to contain US-led military threats.

The main newspaper Rodong Sinmun also published a series of photos in which Kim watched a high-flying rocket with his daughter from afar. Other photos showed her with her hair tied back, a white coat and a pair of red shoes as she walked hand-in-hand with her father by a giant rocket on a launch cart.

It is the first time North Korea’s state media has mentioned the daughter or published her photos. KCNA did not reveal any other details about her such as her name and age.

Much of Kim’s personal life is still unknown. But South Korean media reported that Kim married Ri, a former singer, in 2009 and that the couple have three children, born in 2010, 2013 and 2017.

It was not known which child brought Kim to the launch pad. But in 2013, after a trip to Pyongyang, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman told British newspaper The Guardian that he and Kim spent “relaxing time by the sea” with the leader’s family and that he named Kim’s baby daughter Ju held Ae in her arms.

The identity of Kim’s children is a source of strong outside interest as the 38-year-old ruler has not publicly anointed an apparent heir.

When he disappeared from public view for an extended period in 2020 amid unconfirmed health rumors, a global media frenzy erupted over who would be next to rule an impoverished but nuclear-armed country. Many observers said at the time that Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, would step in and rule the country if her brother was unable to work.

The Kim family has ruled North Korea with a strong personality built around key family members since Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founded the country in 1948. The family’s so-called Paektu bloodline, named after the holiest mountain in the north, allows only direct family members to rule the country.

“It is far too early to infer anything about the succession within the Kim regime,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “However, the public involvement of his wife and daughter in what Kim describes as a historically successful missile test ties the family business of governing North Korea to the nation’s missile programs.”

“This may be an attempt to compensate for how little economic accomplishment Kim has to support his national legitimacy,” Easley said.

Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang of the private Sejong Institute in South Korea said if Kim continued to take this daughter to important public events, it could signal that she would become Kim’s successor.

“Under the North Korean system, Kim Jong Un’s children would have the status of prince or princess, like in a dynasty.” Rodong Sinmnum newspaper reported that Rodong Sinmnum newspaper published the photo of the daughter who married Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju imitated a lot…she has no choice but to live a special life,” Cheong said.

This photo made available by the North Korean government on Nov. 19, 2022 shows their leader Kim Jong Un accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju, second from right, and their daughter as Kim inspects the test shot of a Hwasong-17 ICBM on Friday in Pyongyang, North Korea.

/ Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

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Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

This photo made available by the North Korean government on Nov. 19, 2022 shows their leader Kim Jong Un accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju, second from right, and their daughter as Kim inspects the test shot of a Hwasong-17 ICBM on Friday in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Other observers say that Kim, who took his family to a missile testing site, suggested he was confident in the weapon’s successful launch, or that he may have been trying to polish an image as a normal leader including his family in his affairs.

The revelation of the Kim family’s child has surprised many North Korean observers.

It was only in 2010 that the then 26-year-old Kim was first publicly mentioned in state media when he held a series of top posts before inheriting power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il the next year. Kim Jong Il was also 31 years old when he received a key post in the ruling Labor Party in 1973 – an appointment seen as an important step on the way to succeeding his father Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Il’s position as successor was made public at the 1980 party congress.

But Cheong said Kim Jong Il privately informed his staff in 1992 that Kim Jong Un, his third and youngest son, would succeed him. Cheong said Kim’s aunt and husband, who defected to the United States, told him that a song praising Kim Jong Un was being played and that Kim Jong Il said Kim Jong Un would be his successor on March 8 .birthday of his son.

“Kim Jong Un may have his daughter, who is most like him in his mind, as his successor,” Cheong said.

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