During the evening of Wednesday, March 20, North Korea’s capital city of Pyongyang was swept by lines of massive rockets. Kim Jong-un wasn’t simply showing off his arsenal, either. Kim’s daughter was also part of the display.
When the North Korean leader took his customary place in the centre of the balcony during the parade, the girl in black stood next to him.
She goes by the name Kim Ju-ae, and she’s probably approximately 10 years old. She’s his second oldest child.
Five times in less than three months, she has made an appearance in front of the public.
She has changed dramatically in such a short period of time, and it now seems likely that she will become North Korea’s next leader.
At the time of her maiden appearance, at the launch of an ICBM in November of last year, rumours flew thick and fast. Many wondered aloud if this young woman might one day rule the most secretive state in the world.
However, this was an extremely far-fetched assumption at the time.
She looked adorable as she held her father’s hand and walked around in her white puffer jacket, red ballet flats, and ponytail. Maybe Mr. Kim merely wanted to show that he was a doting dad, or he wanted to make it absolutely apparent that his family, complete with weaponry, was here to stay.
But the young Kim seems to have matured with each public outing.
Ahead of the parade on Wednesday, she dined with the highest ranking military leaders in North Korea on Tuesday night. This time, she kept her hair pulled back and dressed modestly in a white blouse and black skirt suit. Those who saw the photos from North Korea were awestruck. She is the focus of each photo, sitting between her parents and a group of military leaders.
The evolution of the vocabulary employed to describe the young Ms. Kim has also been fascinating.
Official media first introduced her as Kim Jong-“loving” Un’s daughter. She was finally able to attend the military banquet on Tuesday as a “respected” Kim’s daughter. This adverbial label is only bestowed upon the highest of honorees. Kim Jong-Un was not called a “respected comrade” until after his position as leader was established.
Since its inception, three separate Kim families have served as the country’s leaders. The people are led to believe that the royal family is the sole legitimate choice for leadership because of their holy heritage. Kim Jong-Un is likely to be concerned about passing power to a successor generation.
If Ms. Ju-ae is the chosen heir, then why has she been thrust into the spotlight so quickly and so early? Kim Jong-daughter Un’s is still a young adult at the age of 39.
Reportedly announced to military officers in private at the age of eight, Mr. Kim would succeed his father Kim Jong-Il.
It wasn’t known publicly until a year before his father passed away. This made his first days on the job difficult as he aggressively sought to strengthen his position in the hierarchy.
Maybe he’s trying to smooth the way for Kim’s daughter when she takes over by making things more secure for her now. Maybe his health isn’t as good as we believe it is, and he won’t be around for as long as we want. Neither can be known, of course.
The extremely patriarchal nature of North Korea’s society is another factor that may explain why Kim Jong-Un needs so much time. While there have been women in high positions in North Korea before, none have ever held the position of leader. Kim’s sister Kim Yo-Jong is the most notable of these ladies.
Analyst James Fretwell from NK News, which keeps tabs on North Korea, does not believe this to be an insurmountable obstacle.
“While North Korea is a male-dominated society, it is also a Kim-dominated society,” he told the BBC. “She has the makings of a leader, if for no other reason than her family tree. An outsider, whether male or female, to the reigning Kim family would be more of a shock.”
However, there is still work to be done if a woman is to be installed at the very top and enjoy widespread support from the general populace, the armed forces, and the ruling class.
It’s far from likely that Kim Ju-Ae will become North Korea’s next leader, but her chances improve with every public appearance she makes.