North Korean leader Kim Jong-un unveiled the fourth generation of his ruling family yesterday, appearing in photographs with his daughter for the first time ever, giving analysts an indication of his dynastic vision for North Korea.
State media has never mentioned Kim’s children — the regime has not even officially confirmed they exist — but the state-run Korean Central News Agency yesterday reported that Kim, “together with his beloved daughter and wife,” oversaw the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Pictures showed a beaming Kim holding hands with an adoring girl in a white puffer jacket and red shoes, walking in front of a giant missile and appearing to celebrate a successful test.
Kim — the grandson of North Korea’s founding leader and the third generation of the Kim family to lead the country — married his wife, Ri Sol-ju, in 2009, according to Seoul’s spy agency.
She gave birth to their first child the following year, with their second and third born in 2013 and 2017, the agency has said.
The only previous confirmation of the children’s existence had come from former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who made a quixotic visit to North Korea in 2013 and claimed he had met a baby daughter of Kim’s called Ju-ae.
Kim was “a good dad,” Rodman said at the time.
The daughter revealed in the photographs is presumed to be Ju-ae — likely Kim’s second child, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea.
She is the equivalent of a North Korean “princess,” he added.
Now that her identity has been revealed, she will likely be able to participate in state affairs, and her appearance with her father could even indicate she is his anointed successor, Cheong said.
Kim Jong-un’s father selected him as a successor over his elder children because of the physical resemblance between the two, Cheong said.
“Kim Jong-un may want to do the same with this particular daughter. Perhaps she has the qualities that Kim thinks are a lot like his,” he said.
To introduce Kim’s daughter to the world at this juncture could be a message to the world that the North Korean regime is not going away, analyst Soo Kim said.
The appearance sends “a message to the international community to accept and brace for North Korea’s fourth iteration of terror and belligerence,” she said.
The photographs might also be part of a carefully stage-managed attempt by Pyongyang to show that Kim is a “normal” leader, North Korean studies scholar Ahn Chan-il said.
“Pyongyang seems to be trying to brand itself as a ‘normal’ nation — while conducting these ICBM launches that show off its military prowess — by showing images of Kim being a seemingly loving father,” Ahn said.
“It is also a gesture of stabilising the regime by declaring to the outside world that it is now heading for its fourth-generation succession and that it is well-prepared for it,” he added.
Including his wife in the public appearance and “especially his daughter ‘soften’ the image, at least [maybe] for domestic audience,” North Korea expert John Delury wrote on Twitter.
“This is not a warmonger or narcissistic Little Rocket Man. He’s a good dad, protecting his family, like he protects the nation,” he added.
Other analysts said the timing and location of the daughter’s introduction to the world — at a launch of an ICBM — was disturbing.
It is the “most messed up bring-your-kid-to-work day,” US-based security expert Ankit Panda wrote on Twitter.
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