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Premature to say Kim Jong-un's daughter an heir: Seoul

State media reports suggest NK has been establishing specific protocol standards for Ju-ae

Sept. 5, 2023 - 17:09 By Ji Da-gyum
This image, captured from footage of North Korea's state-run Korean Central Television on Aug. 29, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) and his daughter, Ju-ae, visiting the country's naval command two days earlier to celebrate Navy Day, which fell on Aug. 28. (Yonhap)

North Korean state media's ongoing efforts to spotlight Kim Ju-ae, the daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, primarily serve to underscore Pyongyang's commitment to upholding fourth-generation hereditary succession, rather than indicating her formal designation as the heir apparent, South Korea's Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

The Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea that mainly targets North Korean audiences, reported a total of 15 public activities attended by Ju-ae, according to data provided by the ministry.

"It's very premature to discuss whether she is the heir apparent at this juncture. She is still young, and it hasn't even been a year since her first public appearance," a senior official -- who requested to remain anonymous -- said during a closed-door briefing on North Korea's recent political trends.

But the ministry's assessment is that North Korea's aim is to "showcase its determination to hereditary succession" within the Paektusan bloodline, representing the Kim dynasty.

North Korea intends to convey the "message that the Paektusan bloodline will persist, demanding ongoing loyalty for generations to come," the official said when asked by The Korea Herald about the ultimate goal of the Kim Jong-un regime in publicly showing Ju-ae.

But North Korean state media reports suggest that North Korea has been "establishing protocol standards" specifically for Ju-ae, the official underscored.

For instance, Marshal of the Korean People's Army Pak Jong-chon and Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam were observed walking behind Ju-ae on the red carpet when the North Korean leader reviewed the honor guard of the KPA Navy during his visit to the Navy Command on Aug. 27.

The official also emphasized, "What's particularly noteworthy is that this movement was in strict accordance with formal protocol."

North Korea's state media also reported Ju-ae sitting directly beside her father on the podium during their visit to the naval headquarters, marking the first occurrence of such an arrangement. Additionally, she was seen perusing what appeared to be Kim Jong-un's speech manuscript, a privilege not granted to the hundreds of other participants.

The Unification Ministry further highlighted that Ju-ae has been publicly associated with military-related activities on 12 occasions, constituting 80 percent of her public engagements since her debut at a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile launch site in mid-November last year.

The activities include attending events like a military parade celebrating the Korean People's Army's foundation in February, the first launch of the solid-fuel Hwasong-18 ICBM in April as well as live-fire drills alongside her father.

In contrast, her involvement in social and economic sectors has been limited to just three occasions so far -- attendance at two sporting events and the groundbreaking ceremony for a new street in the Sopho area of Pyongyang.

The Unification Ministry said Ju-ae "primarily participated in events that focused on showcasing military and economic achievements, and eliciting loyalty from the military."