North Korea unveils Kim’s daughter at missile launch site

North Korea unveils Kim’s daughter at missile launch site

North Korea unveils Kim’s daughter at missile launch site

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

Northern state media reported this on Saturday Kim watched the launch of his new type of intercontinental ballistic missile with his wife Ri Sol Ju, their “beloved daughter” and other officials the day before. Kim said the launch of the Hwasong-17 missile — the North’s longest-range, nuclear-capable missile — proved it has a reliable weapon to contain US-led military threats.

The main Rodong Sinmun newspaper also published a series of photos of Kim watching the missile launch from a distance with his daughter. Other photos show her with her hair pulled back, wearing a white coat and a pair of red shoes as she walks hand-in-hand with her father next to a giant missile on top of a launch truck.

This is the first time North Korean state media has mentioned the daughter or published her photos. KCNA did not provide further details about her, such as her name and age.

Much of Kim’s private life is still unknown. However, 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 is not known which child Kim took to the launch site. But in 2013, after a trip to Pyongyang, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that he and Kim were “relaxing at sea” with the leader’s family and that he was holding Kim’s baby daughter, named Ju Ae.

The identities of Kim’s children are a source of strong outside interest because the 38-year-old ruler has not publicly anointed his successor.

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

The Kim family has ruled North Korea with a strong personality based on 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 North’s most sacred mountain, allows only direct family members to rule the country.

“It is too early to conclude 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 claims was a historically successful missile test links the family business of ruling North Korea to national missile programs.”

“This could be an attempt to compensate for how few economic achievements Kim has to support his domestic legitimacy,” Easley said.

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

“In the North Korean system, Kim Jong Un’s children would have the status of a prince or princess, as in a dynasty. As the Rodong Sinmnum newspaper published a photo of the daughter, who followed Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Yoo so much… she has no choice but to live separate lives,” Cheong said.

Other observers say that Kim taking his family to the missile test site showed that he was confident of a successful launch of the weapon, or that he may have tried to project an image of a normal leader, including his family in his affairs.

The revelation of the Kim family’s child surprised many North Korea watchers.

It was not until 2010 that Kim, then 26, was first mentioned publicly in state media as he held a series of senior positions before inheriting power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il the following year. Kim Jong Il was also 31 when he won a key post in the ruling Workers’ Party in 1973 – an appointment seen as a key step on the path 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 told aides in 1992 that Kim Jong Un, his third and youngest son, would succeed him. Cheong said Kim’s aunt and her husband, who defected to the United States, told him that a song glorifying Kim Jong Un was played and that Kim Jong Il said Kim Jong Un was his successor on his son’s 8th birthday.

“Kim Jong Un may have his daughter, who in his mind looks the most like him, as an heir,” Cheong said.

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