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North Korea refers to Kim’s daughter by term reserved for ‘top leaders’: analysts

North Korea refers to Kim's daughter by term reserved for 'top leaders': analysts
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North Korean state media on Saturday referred to leader Kim Jong Un’s teenage daughter as a “great person of guidance”, employing a term usually reserved for senior leaders and hinting at her status as a potential successor, analysts said.

Both the English- and Korean-language versions of an official Korean Central News Agency report on Kim and his daughter’s visit to a greenhouse farm used the plural form of the honorific, suggesting it applied to both of them.

“The great persons of guidance, together with cadres of the Party, the government and the military, went round the farm,” read the English-language report, which ran with images of the pair.

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

“This is the first expression of elevating Kim Ju Ae to the ranks of” a leader, Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

The North Korean term “hyangdo” — meaning guidance — is typically only reserved for “top leaders or successors” of the isolated regime, said Cheong Seong-chang, director of Center for Korean Peninsula Strategy at the Sejong Institute.

“This level of personal worship for Kim Ju Ae strongly suggests that she will succeed Kim Jong Un as the next leader of North Korea,” Cheong added.


– At Kim’s side –


Kim Jong Un — the grandson of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung 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.

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

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

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.

Prior to 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 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.

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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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