North Korean leader Kim Jong Un showed the world her nine-year-old daughter for the first time as he attended the launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday. The girl, believed to be named Kim Chu-ae, made a rare appearance as she was seen holding Kim Jong Un's hand at the ICBM launch on a family day out.
The despot has made cryptic comments about his children in the past, and there have been rumors regarding the identity of his eldest daughter, but this is the first time state media KCNA has revealed specifics or photographs of her. And the world finally saw the face of Kim Chu-ae on Friday.
Unveiling His Daughter
The young girl was seen watching the launch from a distance with Jong Un arm in arm and her mother, Ri Sol-ju, as her father examined the destructive weapons at a military base. The leader's daughter was seen grinning as he interacted with military people and leaning in to talk with him as they left the test site, showing signs that she was enjoying her visit.
Although there is no official confirmation, experts believe her name is Kim Ju-ae. As Kim Jong Un observed the test of the nation's latest intercontinental ballistic missile, he pledged to use nuclear weapons to confront U.S. nuclear threats, according to state media KCNA on Friday evening.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Kim Jong Un claimed that his nation had "substantially accelerate the bolstering of its overwhelming nuclear deterrence" in response to threats from the United States and its allies pursuing a hostile strategy.
'Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to pose threats ... our party and government will resolutely react to nukes with nuclear weapons and to total confrontation with all-out confrontation,' the official KCNA news agency said.
The Hermit Kingdom conducted an ICBM test on Friday, just after threatening to use "fiercer military retaliation" if Washington increased its regional security posture.
They declared the missile launch to be successful, claiming the Hwasongpho-17 warhead traveled over 1,000 kilometers in 4,135 seconds at an altitude of nearly 6,000 km.
Keeping It Secret
Kim Jong Un's daughter may have previously been seen in Pyongyang on September 8 at a performance marking the country's 74th birthday. Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean elite, predicted that the girl who was seen being directly spoken to and cared for by Kim's wife would be of a similar age as Kim's daughter.
Ri Sol-ju had made numerous TV appearances prior to being recognized as a member of the first family, he continued. "Madame Ri appeared on North Korean television on several occasions as a singer, sometimes as a soloist, at concerts," he said.
"These appearances occurred prior to her July 2012 identification as Kim Jong-un's wife."
However, he emphasized that Kim Jong Un might carry risks if he made his daughter too well-known.
"When Kim Jong-un was a child and teenager, he was kept cloistered from all but the top North Korean elites who had close family or personal relationships to his father." Madden said.
"North Korean elites could not interact with him or his siblings without his father's approval. Potential adversaries among North Korean elites, if aware of the identities of the leader's children, could present a vulnerability."
"Instead of fomenting a coup or insurrection against the political leadership, the children could be kidnapped or harmed as a means of attaining leverage over the leader. This applied to Kim Jong-un when he was growing and could very well apply to his own children," he added.
Kim's private life is still mostly a mystery. But according to South Korean media, he married former singer Ri in 2009, and the pair has three children who were born in 2010, 2013, and 2017.
Which child Kim brought to the launch site is still not known. However, after visiting Pyongyang in 2013, retired NBA player Dennis Rodman revealed to the Guardian that he and Kim had a "relaxing time by the sea" with the leader's family and that Rodman had held Kim's infant daughter, Ju Ae.
The names of Kim's children are a subject of intense foreign curiosity since the 38-year-old dictator hasn't declared an heir apparent in public. When he vanished from view for a protracted period in 2020 amid unverified rumors of health concerns, a media frenzy broke out over who would be the future leader of an underdeveloped but nuclear-armed nation.
Many commentators predicted at the time that Kim Yo Jong, Kim's younger sister, would take over as leader of the nation in the event of her brother's incapacitation.