The surprisingly normal life of a little dictator: Kim Jong-un’s 10-year-old daughter enjoys horse-riding and painting… but will one day have her finger on the nuclear button
- Kim Jong Un’s heir apparent is a big painter and lover of riding horses, say spies
- It is a fascinating insight into the young girl who may one day rule North Korea
Tresses pinned back neatly in a hairclip, she could be any other ten-year-old proudly watching her father at work.
Her papa looks deep in thought at his polished wood desk, mulling over the task ahead.
But this is not some anonymous office in one of the world’s grey city districts – and this is no ordinary family scene.
Kim Ju Ae is watching her father Kim Jong Un at a North Korean fire assault drill – his minions are simulating an attack on their hated southern neighbours.
If international rumours are to be believed, it could one day be this dutiful daughter in the hotseat, masterminding invasion plans with her own military underlings.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with daughter Kim Ju Ae, at an artillery drill in an undisclosed location in North Korea
Daddy’s little girl: The North Korean despot with the young daughter Kim Ju Ae who could one day succeed him
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending a banquet with his daughter Ju Ae to mark the 75th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army
The recent image of young Ja-ae watching over the drills will have raised concern in South Korean government halls.
But at least for now, she is almost like any other young girl, her notorious father aside.
In fact she appears to be considerably more athletic than her ‘old man’, with a keen love of sport.
This week Seoul’s National Intelligence Service gave a closed briefing to South Korean MPs about her.
Head of the NIS Kim Kyou-hyun said: ‘It seems that Kim Ju-ae has never attended a regular education institution and was home-schooled
‘And her hobbies appear to be horseback riding, swimming and skiing.
The day before a military parade, Kim Ju Ae was pictured with her father at a grand banquet
‘We have information that Kim Jong-un is very satisfied with Kim Ju-ae’s skilled horseback riding’.
He reported that Ju-ae was the second of three children, with an older brother and a younger sibling whose sex is not known. He did not confirm rumours that the older son is kept from public view because he suffers from a disability.
‘We are certain that Kim Jong-un’s oldest child is a son.
‘While we have confirmed the birth of a third child, the sex has not been confirmed as of now.
‘The son has never been seen in public, and there is no intelligence that confirms rumours of physical or mental disabilities.’
Kim almost never appears in public with his children, so experts believe it’s highly significant that Ju-ae has now joined him at events no fewer than five times in the past three months.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and daughter Kim Ju Ae at a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea’s army
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, his daughter presumed to be named Ju Ae and wife Ri Sol Ju, seen left
She was first in the spotlight last November, wearing a white puffer jacket, red ballet pumps and a ponytail, and clutching Kim’s hand as they visited a rocket-launching site.
Then, last week, just the day before the military parade, she was pictured with her father at a military banquet where she had pride of place between the leader and his wife Ri Sol-ju, her mother.
Again, little is known about who Ri really is. Some believe that her name may be a pseudonym — although it has often been claimed she is a former singer, a profession for which Kim has a penchant.
The following evening, Mrs Kim walked respectfully behind her husband and his favoured daughter along a red carpet to watch the parade.
It was an apparent act of deference, some believe, that signals the North Korean regime may be starting to build a personality cult around Ju-ae, as it did with the previous three Kims
The face of Kim Jong-un’s daughter was quietly revealed in North Korean propaganda, with her seen centre
Kim Ju Ae, daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attends a military parade to mark the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea’s army, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea on February 8
And, while North Korea state media has never even confirmed Ju-ae’s name, the changing adjectives it has applied to her — words which hold immense significance in North Korea’s hierarchy — are being cited as further evidence that she has been chosen to succeed her father.
Only a few weeks ago, it was ‘beloved daughter’ — but just days ago that was upgraded to ‘respected daughter’, an adjective normally reserved for Supreme Leaders and their spouses.
Despite the regime’s communist pretensions, in Pyongyang, power runs through one family. North Koreans have been brainwashed since the days of the first president, Kim Il-sung, into believing that the Kims’ bloodline is ‘sacred’ and only their omnipotent dynasty can lead the country.
The Kims claim to have what they call the ‘Mount Paektu bloodline’, linked to a mountain in the north of the country where Dangun, the spiritual founder of Korea — offspring of a god and a bear — was born.
North Koreans have been taught for decades to believe that the Kims have supernatural powers — and it was only in 2020 that Kim Jong-un authorised an official newspaper to break it to credulous readers that he couldn’t, in fact, bend space and time.
If Ju-ae has indeed been nominated to become the third descendant of Kim Il-sung to lord it over North Korea, then her appearance at military events is vital.
It will confirm to the country’s vast armed forces that she will be a worthy successor to her father.
The nuclear-armed tyrant spends a far greater proportion of his country’s budget on defence than any other country, even as many of his wretched people face malnutrition and even starvation.
Kim himself may be chronically obese, a lover of rich cheese and a chainsmoker, but he’s still only 39 — which may make succession planning seem a little premature.
North Korean experts suggest, however, that he is trying to prevent a repetition of the chaos of his own coming to power. Although at the age of eight he was privately endorsed as heir and given a general’s uniform (military top brass had to start bowing to him), his status as the next Supreme Leader wasn’t publicly confirmed until a year before his father died in 2011. And, consequently, he had to move fast and ruthlessly to consolidate his power.
Ju-ae is believed to have an older brother as well as a younger sister — born respectively in 2010 and 2017. Given her father’s own two older brothers were passed over after being thought insufficiently brutal, it would hardly be unprecedented for it to happen again now.
North Korea’s state agency offers a clue why that may have happened, having reported repeatedly that Ju-ae is the leader’s ‘most beloved’ child as well as the ‘precious’ child he cares most for.
In the meantime, like the rest of Kim’s family — the ones he hasn’t executed in various sadistic ways — Ju-ae is understood to be living a life of luxury and privilege that is inconceivable to almost anyone, not just North Koreans.
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