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Journalism of Courage

Kim Jong Un’s daughter makes public appearance: What messages this sends

This is the first time that North Korea’s state media have officially confirmed the existence of Kim’s child, fanning speculations.

This undated photo provided on Nov. 27, 2022, by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and his daughter, left, posing for a photo, in front of a military truck with what it says a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in North Korea. (Photo: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Last week, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un appeared with his daughter in public for the first time at an important intercontinental missile launch site. The country’s state media reported that along with other state officials, Kim observed the launch of the new type of missile with his wife Ri Sol Ju and their “beloved daughter”.

This is the first time that North Korea’s state media have officially confirmed the existence of Kim’s child.

Why this is important

The appearance is important, North Korea watchers say, because there has been very little information publicly available about Kim’s private life. Over the years, some information has made its way out of the country. but little has been verified.

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It was reported that sometime in 2009, Kim married Ri, a former singer, and that the couple have three children who were born in 2010, 2013 and 2017, according to an AP report. While Ri has made some public appearances, photographs of which have been published, it is not the case for the couple’s children.

According to an AP report, in 2013, after a trip to Pyongyang, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman told The Guardian that Kim and he had had a “relaxing time by the sea” with the North Korean leader’s family, and that he held Kim’s baby daughter, who was named Ju Ae.

Now, in a span of 10 days, Ju-ae was photographed publicly twice, stirring speculation and discussions about potential succession plans in North Korea.

What message do the pictures send?

This past weekend, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published photographs of Ju Ae, this time wearing a long black winter coat, walking hand in hand with her father at the test-launch site of the Hwasong-17 ICBM, in the presence of scientists and other officials.


This time, state media referred to Ju Ae as Kim’s “most beloved” or “precious” child, a step up from her previous description of being “(Kim’s) beloved” child. Back in September, some experts had said they had reason to believe that at least one of Kim’s children was seen in footage of celebrations for a national holiday, but this could not be confirmed.

North Korea watchers have been taken by surprise over the decision to make Kim’s daughter’s photos public and there have been speculations over why it was done.

While some believe that Kim may be sending a message that he plans on appointing her his successor, others believe that Ju Ae, who is approximately 12-13 years old, is perhaps too young to be drawn into consideration for succession. Some others believe that the decision is more rooted in portraying how the country plans on continuing to be a nuclear state over generations.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 18:15 IST
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