North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance with his daughter, sparking speculation that the young girl could one day succeed him as leader.
Kim appeared with his daughter, who is believed to be named Kim Chu-ae, at an inspection of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch on Friday for the first time for the long-ruling family. ICBM had range hit the continental United States, according to Japan’s defense ministry.
The North Korean regime is famous for its secrecy and relatively few details are known about the Kims, and even the exact age of the dictator’s daughter is currently unknown.
North Korean expert Michael Madden of Washington’s Stimson Center told BBC News on Friday that he believed Kim Chu-ae was 12 or 13, while International Business Times reported that the girl was 9 years old.
The state news agency KCNA shared photos of Kim holding his daughter’s hand during the inspection, and talking to himself and with officials.
She is also believed to be Kim’s daughter by his wife Ri Sol-ju, whom the dictator reportedly married in 2009. Details about Ri are also scarce and her date of birth is not publicly available while she was only publicly revealed as Kim’s wife in 2012.
The couple is believed to have three children, with Ri giving birth to a son in 2010. Chu-ae was reportedly born in 2013 and a third child was reportedly born in 2017.
The existence of Kim’s daughter was revealed in 2013 by the famous NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman during his controversial visit to North Korea. At the time, Rodman said he was “keeping their little Chu-ae”.
Rodman said Guardian during this time, he also spoke to Ri and said of the North Korean ruler, “He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family.”
The Kims have ruled North Korea for decades, and both Kim’s father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim-Il Sung were dictators of the nation. Kim Jong Un has succeeded his father, but the 38-year-old is not believed to have appointed a successor yet.
Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, is also a well-known and prominent member of the North Korean regime. She is the youngest child of the late Kim Jong Il and the younger sister of the current dictator. Their mother was Ko Yong-hui, who died in 2004.
Kim Yojong plays several roles in the North Korean government, including being the only woman in the country’s State Affairs Commission. He is believed to be very close to the dictator and was educated with him in Switzerland. The 35-year-old is also considered a potential successor to her brother.
North Korea has taken a militant approach to other countries, in particular South Korea, Japan and the US. Earlier this month, the country warned of potential “uncontrollable” tensions over joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Newsweek contacted North Korea experts for comment.
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