Mon. Nov 21st, 2022

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a mysterious man.

Since North Korea operates under a hereditary dictatorship, not much is known about the private life of the head of state, and any information that is shared is tightly controlled by the state media.

So when Kim showed up at the missile launch last Friday, arm in arm with his daughter, the world was shocked.

This is the first time the country’s media has acknowledged Kim’s daughter, let alone shared her video, and the first time any of Kim’s reported children have appeared in public.

A TV screen shows North Korea’s KCNA releasing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter during a news program at Yongsan train station in Seoul, South Korea.

KIM Jae-Hwan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In fact, the country’s media has never reported on Kim’s children, but South Korean media speculate that Kim has three children, believed to have been born in 2010, 2013 and 2017.

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North Korean state media reported on Saturday that Kim had watched the launch of their new type of intercontinental ballistic missile with his wife Ri Sol-ju, their “beloved daughter” and other officials the previous day.

It is not known exactly which child Kim took to the training ground. The BBC reports that the girl’s name is believed to be Kim Chu-ae. The North Korean media did not name the girl, who appeared at the missile test in a white suit, black pants and a long ponytail.

A TV screen shows North Korea’s KCNA releasing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter during a news program at Yongsan train station in Seoul, South Korea.

Kim Jae-Hwan / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The identities of Kim’s children are a source of strong outside interest since the 38-year-old ruler has not publicly named a successor.

Kim disappeared from the public eye for a long time in 2020 and there were rumors that his health might be failing. There was a frenzy in the world media over who was next in line to rule the impoverished country.

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Many observers said at the time that Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, would step in and lead the country if her brother was incapacitated.

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Michael Madden, an expert on North Korean leadership at the Stimson Center in Washington, called the girl’s first public appearance “very significant.”

“It … represents a certain degree of comfort on the part of Kim Jong Un, that he would bring her out in public in such a way,” he told The Associated Press.

The BBC’s Seoul correspondent, Jean Mackenzie, said the discovery of the daughter raised other questions.

“Why am I revealing her now?” Mackenzie wrote. “She is still very young. If he is preparing her to take over, could this mean that the 38-year-old leader has health problems? There is a lot of speculation about his health, because it is considered to be the biggest risk to the stability of the regime.”

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Mackenzie also wondered if her daughter’s appearance meant she would one day play a role in the country’s nuclear weapons program.

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“The discovery at such a significant launch suggests it will one day play a role in the country’s weapons development.”

In 2013, after a trip to Pyongyang, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman told the Guardian that he and Kim were “relaxing by the sea” with the leader’s family and that he was holding Kim’s baby daughter, named Ju-ae. It is not known if Kim Ju-ae and Kim Chu-ae are the same person.

Rodman said he spent time with the family, describing Kim as a “good dad” and that he spoke with Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju.

“I was holding their baby Ju-ae and I was talking to Ms. Ri,” he told the newspaper.

with files from the Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.