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Daughter of North Korea’s Kim might be heir apparent: Seoul

North Korea refers to Kim's daughter by term reserved for 'top leaders': analysts
Image via X (Twitter)

Seoul’s Unification Ministry on Monday added its voice to growing speculation around Kim Jong Un’s succession plans, saying they have not “ruled out” that his daughter could be next in line to lead North Korea.

Pyongyang state media on Saturday referred to Kim’s teenage daughter as a “great person of guidance” — “hyangdo” in Korean — a term typically reserved exclusively for top leaders and their successors.

Analysts said it was the first time Kim’s daughter — never named by Pyongyang, but identified as Ju Ae by South Korean intelligence — had been described as such by the North.

It has redoubled speculation that the teen, who often appears next to her father at key public events, could have been chosen as the next leader of the nuclear-armed North, for a third hereditary succession.

“Usually the term ‘hyangdo’ is only used to refer to the highest-ranking official,” Koo Byoung-sam, a spokesman for Seoul’s Unification Ministry, said at a briefing Monday.

“We are not ruling out the possibility of Ju Ae’s succession,” he said, adding that Seoul was “monitoring the situation and remaining open to possibilities.”

However, he warned that if Ju Ae were to take her father’s place as the fourth leader of the reclusive state, “North Korean people will bear the brunt of the fallout,” he said.

Ju Ae was first introduced to the world by state media in 2022, when she accompanied her father to the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Since then, the North’s official outlets have referred to her in various ways, including the “morning star of Korea” and “beloved child.”

She has been seen at many of her father’s official engagements, including military drills, a visit to a weapons factory, and a stop at a new chicken farm.

In an image released by Pyongyang on Saturday, Ju Ae was seen using binoculars to observe recent paratroop drills, standing beside her father and senior military officials.

Before 2022, the only confirmation of her existence had come from former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who made a visit to the North in 2013 and claimed he’d met a baby daughter of Kim’s called Ju Ae.

Seoul had initially indicated that Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, had their first child, a boy, in 2010, and that Ju Ae was their second child.

But last year, Seoul’s unification minister said that the government was “unable to confirm for sure” the existence of Kim’s son.

Kim Jong Un inherited the regime after his father’s death in late 2011 and has overseen four nuclear tests under his watch, with the latest one conducted in 2017.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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