Edward Howell

Is Kim Jong Un’s daughter being lined up to lead?

(Photo: Alamy)

The photograph shows a happy family. After a 35-day public absence, the corpulent Kim Jong Un has been pictured this week with his wife Ri Sol Ju, and sitting between them their daughter, Kim Ju Ae, as they dine in the presence of North Korean military officers weighed down with medals. 

Is Kim Jong Un’s daughter being lined up to take over North Korea? The photograph has only heightened speculation that the stage is now being set for her to be leader, as the fourth generation of Kim to rule the country. This week North Korean state media gave Kim Ju Ae the honorific of ‘respected’ when writing about the event, an adjective which had previously been bestowed upon leaders of the DPRK and their spouses.  

The occasion for the photograph was the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), North Korea’s military force, which was established in 1948. A military banquet preceded a lavish parade. 

These events are frequently used as an opportunity to display the North’s latest conventional and nuclear weaponry. This year’s parade predictably saw a cornucopia of missiles on show. One of the Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) featured was the Hwasong-17 – the world’s largest road-mobile liquid-fuelled ICBM, first unveiled in October 2020 – which graced Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. State media also appeared to show a new design of solid-fuel ICBM which, if this is the case, would be a technological breakthrough for Pyongyang. With fewer moving parts, solid-fuel missiles launch at faster speeds and are harder to detect than their liquid-fuel counterparts. Expanding the technological scope and sophistication of North Korea’s weaponry has been one of Kim Jong Un’s central aims, as he made clear when he outlined his five-year shopping list of new and expanded weaponry at the eighth Workers’ Party Congress in January 2021.

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