Once a mystery, Kim Jong Un’s daughter appears during major missile tests

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For years, Kim Jong Un’s daughter – Kim Ju Ae – was a mystery to the world. But in late 2022, state media began showing photos of her at North Korean military events. Ju Ae has since witnessed several missile launches, raising questions about Kim’s intentions. Something is loading.

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North Korea tested its largest intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday, marking the country’s latest attempt to bolster its weapons program in the face of joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

Photographs released by state media after the launch appear to show the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, watching with a girl who has been identified by analysts and experts as his daughter, Kim Ju Ae.

For years, Ju Ae has been shrouded in mystery. But in recent months, the authoritarian regime’s news agency has regularly published images of the pre-teen alongside Kim at the country’s biggest military events. A North Korea expert told Insider that the remarkable change could have a political message – that Kim sees the country’s weapons program, which the United States and the UN have condemned, as a legacy pact.

“I think it kind of reinforces this notion that guns are for protection, they’re for the people, they’re for future generations,” said Jenny Town, 38 North program director at the Stimson Center think tank.

Thursday’s missile test saw the Hwasong-17 ICBM reach a maximum altitude of more than 3,700 miles and travel more than 620 miles in waters off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, traveling for more than 69 minutes, according to the official KCNA news agency.

“The exercise confirmed the war readiness of the ICBM unit and the outstanding militancy of the DPRK’s strategic forces and strictly verified their reliability,” KCNA wrote of the test, which took place during an 11-day joint military exercise between U.S. and South Korean forces, dubbed Freedom Shield.

A photograph of the launch appears to show Kim and Ju Ae watching the Hwasong-17 from a balcony overlooking Pyongyang Airport. It was just the latest in a series of military events – from missile tests to parades – at which she has been present.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, watches what he says is a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, with a young woman who appears to resemble his girl, at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday, March 16, 2023. Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via An ‘unprecedented practice’

Little is known about Ju Ae beyond a few details. Her existence was first revealed by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, who mentioned her by name during a media interview after a trip to North Korea in 2013. She is around 10 years old. and would be the second of Kim’s three children.

So far, Town said, the world has only really seen Ju Ae at military-oriented events.

The North Korean government first publicized Ju Ae during a missile launch in November 2022, showing her hand-in-hand with Kim as they walked by the massive ICBM Hwasong-17. KCNA confirmed that Kim visited the site with his “beloved daughter and wife,” and experts then pointed to Ju Ae’s public revelation.

Kim’s other two children, one of whom is believed to be older than Ju Ae, are not seen in the footage released by the regime.

This photo provided November 19, 2022 by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and his daughter inspecting a missile at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, November 18 2022. Central News Agency/Korean News Service via Associated Press

Ju Ae has since made several appearances, made public by state media, at North Korean military events. Following the launch of the ICBM in mid-November, a photograph released in late November showed her in front of an erector carrier launcher alongside her father and uniformed personnel.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter attend a photo opportunity with scientists, engineers, military officials and others involved in the test-firing of the country’s new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in this photo undated published November 27, 2022 by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of North Korea. KCNA via REUTERS

In early February, Ju Ae attended a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s military, during which the country unveiled a new design for what may be its most dangerous ICBM to date. That same month, she also made an appearance alongside her parents at a banquet in Pyongyang and watched a football match to observe the holiday of North Korea’s Day of the Shining Star, which commemorates the birth of Kim Jong-il, the country’s second dictator.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter Kim Ju Ae attend a military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean military, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on 08th Feb, 2023. North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his wife Ri Sol Ju and their daughter Kim Ju Ae attend a banquet to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the People’s Army Korea the following day, in Pyongyang, North Korea February 7, 2023. KCNA via REUTERS North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts while watching sports matches in Pyongyang, North Korea in this photo released on February 17, 2023 by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of North Korea. KCNA via REUTERS

Earlier in March, Ju Ae sat next to her father and watched what was believed to be an artillery drill at an undisclosed location. And, most recently, she observed the launch of the ICBM on Thursday.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with his daughter, inspects what he says is an artillery drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea on Thursday, March 9 2023. Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via

“It’s remarkable that she’s in public at all…and it’s truly an unprecedented practice,” Town said. “Usually the Kim family never showed their kids when they were young, in public. So that’s a completely new thing that we’re seeing.”

Lethal weapons — for the people

Some analysts and pundits have speculated that all of Ju Ae’s public appearances over the past few months could be a signal that Kim is positioning her to be his successor. Others have suggested that Kim is trying to highlight the importance of his lineage – that Kim wants one of his descendants to lead the country after his death, as his father and grandfather did before him – or that his family is closely tied to North Korea’s nuclear power. program.

Town said that while there are several ways to interpret Ju Ae’s public projections, they seem to convey political messages following a shift in North Korea’s nuclear stance.

The country passed legislation in September 2022 allowing it to carry out preemptive nuclear strikes if its leaders are threatened, reversing a 2013 law that emphasized strikes as a retaliatory measure. Kim said in September that the new status was “irreversible.”

North Korea has since changed its nuclear rhetoric to no longer depend on anything and instead positions itself as a nuclear state that has weapons to protect its people and future generations, Town said.

Ju Ae’s presence at these military events “emphasizes the long-term vision” and “longevity” of North Korea’s nuclear program, Town said. She referenced the first published images of Ju Ae and Kim from November – looking at the launch of Hwasong-17 in the background – which she said highlighted a legacy narrative and reinforces the message that weapons are for protection, the North Korean people and future generations. .

North Korea has also alluded to this notion. After the November ICBM test, state media reportedly said the nuclear weapons and missiles were meant to protect the country’s children. As the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party puts it, they are “monuments to be passed on to our descendants for generations to come”.

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