North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holding the hands of his young daughter at a missile launch site might have made for sought-after photos, but the motive behind the move has fanned speculations about the ruler next-in-line. Some experts believe that if he continues to bring her to major public events, it could suggest that Kim Jong Un perceives her as the heir apparent.
The North Korean leader was last week spotted at a missile site with his daughter, believed to be his second child. North Korea said on Saturday that Kim, along with wife Ri Sol Ju and their ‘beloved daughter’ observed the launch of the country’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, Hwasong-17.
Images of Kim walking hand-in-hand with his daughter, who was spotted wearing a white coat and red shoes were released by the state media. The duo walked past a missile on a launch truck, and watched the firing of the missile.
It was the first time North Korea confirmed her existence, while other information like age and name were withheld from the public.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, in a closed-door briefing at a parliament committee, assessed that the girl is Kim’s second child, Ju Ae, identified by former American basketball player Dennis Rodman, who spent time with Kim's family in 2013. South Korean media speculated that Kim married Ri in 2009 and they have three children who were born in 2010, 2013 and 2017 respectively.
Kim Jong Un is a third-generation leader of the family that has run the country since 1948. Kim and his father Kim Jong Il were both first mentioned by the state media after they became adults.
While experts believe that Kim’s daughter could be the next in line, Chun Su-jin, South Korean author of a book on North Korean leaders believes that chances of the North Korean elite welcoming a daughter as a ruler is close to zero. Su-jin believes that Kim’s appearance with his daughter is to bolster beliefs that he is a doting father and not just a ruthless, missile-loving dictator.
Kim had, earlier, elevated women around him to powerful positions, including his sister Yo Jong and Choe Son Hui, the country’s first woman foreign minister. Amid rumours and speculation about Kim Jong Un’s failing health in 2020, his sister was seen as a possible placeholder to take over the leadership role till one of Kim’s children comes of age. However, if Kim has any sons, they are likely to get preference over his daughter, like Kim Jong Il passed several older daughters and sons to pass on the role to Kim Jong Un.
Darcie Draudt of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs told Reuters that, nevertheless, if Kim’s daughter becomes closely associated with economic development and the missile and nuclear weapons programmes, then she could be positioned as the next generation of Kim dynasty.
(With agency inputs)
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