Meet Kim Ju Aye, Kim Jong-uns favourite daughter and likely heir

Kim Jong-un threatens South Korea with nuclear 'annihilation'

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Speculation tyrannical dictator Kim Jong-un is priming his young daughter Kim Ju Ae to become his successor has gathered pace after the pair were snapped in public. The recent surge in Kim and Kim Ju Ae being spotted together has led some experts to claim the North Korean leader is aiming to have his “precious” child take over from him, in a similar fashion to his own rise to national domination. But who is Kim Ju Ae? takes a look at the youngster described as Kim’s “most beloved”.

As 2022 drew to a close, Kim and Kim Ju Ae were spotted out in public together, posing for photographs alongside soldiers and missile scientists, with the youngster holding her father’s hand alongside Ri Sol Ju, the child’s mother.

Little, though, is known about Kim Ju Ae. She is the second of three children, having a brother and sister, and is believed to have been born in 2013. Other than that the potential future leader’s life remains under wraps.

Claims regarding the number of children Kim has remain a fiercely debated topic, particularly in neighbouring South Korea, which made the original claim about the leader having three heirs.

North Korean media itself has never made any mention of Kim’s reported two other children, who were supposedly born in 2010 and 2017.

The Korean Central News Agency has widely reported on Kim Ju Ae, describing her as Kim’s “most beloved” child, as well as the “precious” child he cares most for.

It is believed that US basketball star Dennis Rodman, who famously was snapped alongside Kim during a visit to the North Korean capital Pyongyang in 2013, met Kim Ju Ae.

Following the visit, Mr Rodman said he had a “relaxing time by the sea” while in the company of Kim, holding Kim Ju Ae as he did, according to The Guardian at the time.

The recent surge in her presence had left some questioning whether the middle child of Kim could be the successor to his position.

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It came as images of Kim Ju Ae and Kim were taken at a test launch of North Korea’s Hswasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, leading author Ankit Panda, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, to say it could be the “start of her being positioned as a potential successor”.

He continued: “Both of her initial public appearances have been in the context of strategic nuclear weapons — the crown jewels of North Korea’s national defence capabilities. That doesn’t strike me as coincidental.”

Other question marks were also left due to Kim Ju Ae being female, and whether in such a male-dominated arena she would be given the chance to take on such a powerful role.

Kim himself is a third-generation member of the family to take power in seven decades, all of whom have been men.

Soo Kim, a security analyst, said, according to Sky News: “We’ve been told that Kim has three children, including possibly a son.

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“If this is true, and if we assume that the male child — who has yet to be revealed — will be the heir, is Kim Ju Ae truly Kim’s most ‘precious,’ from a succession standpoint?

“I think it is too early to draw any conclusions.”

Her rise was also questioned by South Korean writer Chun Su-jin, who argued that there was practically no chance the most powerful figures in North Korea would accept a woman in the top position.

She continued: “It is not ready to welcome a leader of the other gender. [Kim] is just staging a show that he is a loving father, not just a brutal dictator who shoots missiles.”

Kim, 39, still has likely many years as head of the secretive state, though claims regarding his poor health have often circulated when the despot is not pictured carrying out public duties for a prolonged period.

Michael Madden, director of North Korea Leadership Watch, felt that ultimately Kim Ju Ae’s gender would not dismantle any ambitions to become leader one day, and that considering her father’s age ideals could change over time.

He added: “That gives ample time for North Korea’s political culture to change and create the conditions for a female successor.”

Another female who could take over were Kim to fall ill gravely would be his sister Kim Yo Jong, who is reportedly the only close relative of Kim’s who carries out any duties in public.

Titled Vice Department Director of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim Yo Jong’s actual role is far more complex, with reports noting she was in fact at the front of handling relations between Pyongyang, the US and South Korea.

When Kim’s health was placed under the microscope in 2020, with claims the leader had died surfacing, Kim Yo Jong was viewed as the most likely candidate to take over the reins in North Korea.

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