North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has presented his daughter to the world for the first time in striking photos showing the pair hand-in-hand inspecting the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Saturday that Kim Jong Un had attended the test-firing of the ICBM “together with his beloved daughter and wife”.
Photos released by KCNA were the first official confirmation of the existence of the North Korean leader’s daughter.
KCNA did not name the girl, who is seen in photographs in a white puffy coat holding hands with her father as they appear to inspect a massive Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea launched what it said was a Hwasong-17 ICBM on Friday. The missile travelled 1,000km (622 miles) on a lofted trajectory, and landed about 200km (124 miles) west of Oshima-Oshima island in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido, according to Japanese officials.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said on Saturday that, before the release of photographs on Saturday, it was only speculated that Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju had three children, born in 2010, 2013 and 2017.
The only previous confirmation that the couple had children had come from former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who made a quixotic visit to Pyongyang in 2013 and claimed he had met Kim’s daughter.
After his trip to North Korea that year, Rodman told The Guardian newspaper that he had spent time with Kim and his family, and held their baby. Rodman said Kim had a “baby” daughter named Ju Ae, who is estimated to now be about 12 or 13 years of age.
The North Korean leader was “a good dad”, Rodman said at the time.
Kim – the grandson of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung and the third generation of the Kim family to lead the country – married Ri Sol Ju, in 2009, according to Seoul’s spy agency.
To introduce his daughter to the world at this juncture could be designed to send an international message that the North Korean regime is here to stay, Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst now with the RAND Corporation, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
“In a way, it’s a symbolic picture of Kim passing the sceptre of rule to the next generation,” Soo Kim said, adding that the photos also suggest “a degree of closeness and comfort between Kim and his daughter”, which could indicate that she is being groomed for future leadership.
The photographs may also be part of a carefully stage-managed attempt by Pyongyang to show Kim is a “normal” leader, North Korean studies scholar Ahn Chan-il told AFP.
“Pyongyang seems to be trying to brand itself as a ‘normal’ nation – while conducting these ICBM launches that show off its military prowess – by showing images of Kim being a seemingly loving father,” Ahn said.
“It is also a gesture of stabilising the regime by declaring to the outside world that it is now heading for its fourth-generation succession and that it is well-prepared for it.”