South Korea Names Kim's 'Most Likely' Successor

Respect shown for daughter Kim Ju Ae suggests she'll lead, says spy agency
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2024 9:14 AM CST
South Korea Names Kim's 'Most Likely' Successor
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarters in North Korea, on Aug. 27, 2023.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea's next leader is likely to be a woman. That's according to South Korea's spy agency, which said Thursday that Kim Jung Un's daughter, Kim Ju Ae, thought to be 10 years old, is his "most likely" successor based on numerous public appearances in the last year, per the New York Times. Ju Ae first appeared at a long-range missile test launch with her father in November 2022, fueling speculation that she would be his heir. North Korea has only ever been ruled by members—specifically male members—of the Kim family, which claims to hail from a sacred bloodline, and none of Kim's other children, said to include an older son and a younger child, have appeared in public or been mentioned by state media.

Since that first public appearance, Ju Ae has accompanied her father to navy headquarters, military parades, and numerous banquets. State media, which initially referred to her as Kim's "most beloved" child, now describe her as "respected," an adjective "reserved for North Korea's most revered," per the BBC. South Korea's National Intelligence Service said it was still considering "all possibilities" for succession but that Ju Ae appeared most likely to succeed her father "based on a comprehensive analysis of public activities and the level of respect" shown to the young girl. A senior general was seen whispering to her at a military parade in September, the Guardian points out.

Despite long-running speculation about Ju Ae's future role, this is the first time South Korea's spy agency has acknowledged her as the 40-year-old leader's heir, per the BBC. South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho gave a similar view last month, noting "the continuous emphasis on Kim Jong Un's daughter can be seen as evidence that North Korea is hastening to showcase succession intentions amid difficult internal circumstances." Ju Ae's early introduction to the public—compared with Kim's own in 2010 at the age of 26, just a year before his father's death—could be intended to allow time "to overcome prejudices in deeply patriarchal North Korea," the BBC notes. (More North Korea stories.)

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