North Korea

Seoul: Kim’s daughter reveal hints at prolonged family rule

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s disclosure of his daughter in recent public events was likely an attempt to show his people that one of his children would one day inherit his power in what would be the country’s third hereditary power transfer, South Korea’s spy service told lawmakers Thursday.

Kim publicly took his daughter to three events in the past few months: a missile launch site, a photo session with weapons scientists and a touring of a missile facility. State news media called her Kim’s “most beloved child,” sparking outside debate over whether she’s being groomed as his heir apparent, though she’s believed to be around 9 or 10 years old.

In a closed-door Parliamentary committee meeting, the National Intelligence Service said it believes that by taking his daughter to public places, Kim aims to show North Koreans his resolve to hold another round of hereditary power transition, Yoo Sang-bum, one of the lawmakers who attended the private NIS briefing, told reporters.

But the NIS said Ju Ae’s public appearance — the first for any of Kim’s children — doesn’t necessarily mean that she herself will succeed Kim, Yoo added.

South Korean news outlets have reported that Kim has three children — born in 2010, 2013 and 2017 — and that the first child is a son while the third is a daughter.

In its earlier assessment after the daughter’s first appearance in November, the NIS told lawmakers that she is Kim’s second child, named Ju Ae, and is about 10 years old. The agency told lawmakers at the time that her unveiling at the missile launch site appeared to reflect Kim’s intentions to protect the security of North Korea’s future generations in the face of a standoff with the United States.

Ju Ae apparently is the child whom retired NBA star Dennis Rodman saw during his trip to Pyongyang in 2013. After that visit, Rodman told the British newspaper the Guardian that he and Kim had a “relaxing time by the sea” with the leader’s family and that he held Kim’s baby daughter, Ju Ae.

Kim Jong Un, who turns 39 on Sunday, is the third generation of his family that has successively ruled North Korea since its 1948 foundation. He inherited power from his father Kim Jong Il upon his death in December 2011. Kim Jong Il took over when his father and state founder Kim Il Sung died in 1994.

The young Ju Ae’s appearance came as a huge surprise to long-time North Korea watchers; both Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Il made public debuts after they became adults. In 2010, Kim Jong Il marked the then-26-year-old Kim Jong Un — his third and youngest son — as his successor by putting him in a series of high-ranking posts.

Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam, who was Kim Jong Il’s eldest son, was once seen as a potential heir to the country’s dynastic leadership until he publicly fell from grace in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland. In 2017, Kim Jong Nam was killed at a Malaysian airport after two Asian women smeared the lethal nerve agent VX on his face. South Korea’s spy service accused Kim Jong Un’s government of being behind the attack.  HYUNG-JIN KIM & SEOUL, MDT/AP

Categories Asia-Pacific