Kim Jong Un's daughter emerges from secrecy for second time in days
The daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a second public 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 Sunday shows Kim's daughter posing affectionately beside her father during an event with North Korean soldiers at an unnamed location. During the visit, Kim congratulated soldiers who took part in the test-firing of a intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this month, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.
In one image, the father-daughter pair can be seen posing alongside uniformed soldiers before a truck loaded with a large missile, which state media said is the Hwasong-17 ICBM. In others, the young child can be seen holding her father's arm and clapping her hands while smiling.
The photos are the second set of such images to appear in just over a week. The girl's first appearance in public took place on Nov. 18, when she was pictured with her father at a missile test launch site in Pyongyang, after years of secrecy surrounding her existence.
While the child was not named, observers believe she is called Kim Ju Ae. Her name was first revealed in 2013 by retired NBA star Dennis Rodman, who said after visiting North Korea that 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 Sunday that Kim and his daughter had attended an event "of historic significance" with military scientists and factory workers credited with developing the Hwasong-17, the regime's most powerful ICBM to date. The weapon is being designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads and has the capability of reaching the East Coast of the United States.
"When General Secretary Kim Jong Un appeared at the photo session venue together with his beloved daughter, all the participants broke into stormy cheers of 'Hurrah!'" the Korean Central News Agency reported, in a news release that accompanied 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 older, a boy, was born around 2010. Even less is known about the other child, who was born around 2017.
His young daughter's public appearance is a break from the precedent established by his father and grandfather, whose children had not previously made such appearances until after after they were designated as successors, noted Rachel Minyoung Lee, an expert in North Korean propaganda.
Although the photographs have added to speculation over a potential successor to 38-year-old Kim, who was rumored to be in "grave" 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, exposing a more human, family-oriented side.
It is not the first time the North Korean leader has set aside some of the conventions established by his predecessors. Earlier this year Kim spoke with relative candor in a documentary about the significant challenges facing North Korea, including a food crisis, striking a forthcoming tone never expressed by either his father or grandfather.
Kim has also appeared in public with close family members more frequently than either of his 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 shown in state media six months after the leader ascended to power, and his sister, Kim Yo Jong, a top aide, has also played a significant role in public life.