Kim Jong Un’s daughter appears again, fueling succession speculation

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The daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a second appearance with her father days after her first, suggesting an expansion of the child’s public-facing role and fueling speculation over Kim’s succession plans.

A new set of photographs released by state media on Sunday show Kim’s daughter posing lovingly next to her father during an event with North Korean soldiers at an undisclosed location. During the visit, Kim congratulated soldiers who took part in the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this month, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

In one photo, the father-daughter pair can be seen posing with uniformed soldiers in front of a truck loaded with a large missile, which state media said is the Hwasong-17 ICBM. In others, the toddler can be seen holding his father’s arm and clapping his hands while smiling.

The images are the second set of such images to appear in just over a week. The girl’s first public appearance was on November 18, when she was pictured with her father at a missile launch site in Pyongyang, after years of secrecy surrounding her existence.

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North Korea’s leader showed off his daughter. What could that mean?

While the child was not named, observers believe her name is Kim Ju Ae. Her name was first revealed in 2013 by retired NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said after visiting North Korea he had met the leader’s “baby” daughter.

The Associated Press, citing a South Korean lawmaker briefed on the assessment, reported that Seoul’s National Intelligence Service concluded that last week’s photos showed Ju Ae, the North Korean leader’s second child, and that she was about 10 years old.

North Korean state media said on Sunday that Kim and his daughter had attended an event “of historical significance” with military researchers and factory workers credited with developing the Hwasong-17, the regime’s most powerful ICBM to date. The weapon is designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads and has the ability to reach the East Coast of the United States.

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“When General Secretary Kim Jong Un appeared at the photo session location with his beloved daughter, all the participants erupted into stormy cheers of ‘Hurrah!'” the Korean Central News Agency reported in a press release accompanying photographs.

Kim has been in power for 11 years and is the third generation of his family to rule the secretive nation since it was founded by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in 1948.

Few confirmed details exist about Kim Jong Un’s private life. South Korean intelligence officials say Kim has two other children. The elder, a boy, was born around 2010. Even less is known about the second child, born around 2017.

His young daughter’s public appearance is a break from the precedent set by his father and grandfather, whose children had not previously made such appearances until after they were designated as successors, noted Rachel Minyoung Lee, an expert on North Korean propaganda.

Although the photographs have added to speculation about a potential successor to the 38-year-old Kim, who is rumored to be in “serious” health in 2020, Lee suggests Kim’s decision to reveal his daughter could also be part of a propaganda effort to make the leader seem more relatable and reveal a more human, family oriented side.

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This is not the first time the North Korean leader has flouted some of the conventions established by his predecessors. Earlier this year, Kim spoke with relative openness in a documentary about the significant challenges North Korea faces, including a food crisis, with a forthcoming tone neither his father nor grandfather expressed.

Kim has also appeared in public with close family members more often than any of her predecessors. Unlike his father – who did not reveal his wife and only appeared in public with his sister later in life – Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, was featured in state media six months after the leader came to power, and his sister, Kim Yo Jong, a top aide, has also played a significant role in public life.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Victoria Bisset contributed to this report.

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