South Korea views the young daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as his likely successor

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second right, his daughter and his wife Ri Sol Ju, left, attend a performance on Dec. 31 to celebrate the New Year in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — The young daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen as her father’s likely heir apparent, South Korea’s spy agency said Thursday, its first such assessment on the preteen who was unveiled to the outside world a little more than a year ago.

There has been intense outside debate and speculation about her, reportedly about 10 years old and named Ju Ae, since she made her first public appearance in November 2022, when she watched a long-range missile test launch with her father.


The girl has since accompanied her father to a slew of major public events, with state media calling her Kim Jong Un’s “most beloved” or “respected” child and churning out footage and photos proving her rising political standing and closeness with her father.

A senior general knelt and whispered to her when she clapped while watching a military parade at a VIP observation stand in September. She was photographed standing in front of her father at one point during a visit to the air force headquarters in November, with both Kims wearing sunglasses and long leather jackets. In a New Year’s Eve celebration at a packed Pyongyang stadium Sunday, Kim Jong Un kissed her on the cheek and she did the same to her father.

Most of these scenes are something that had been unimaginable in North Korea, where Kim is the subject of a strong and loyal following that treats him like a god.

South Korea’s main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said Thursday that it sees Kim Ju Ae as her father’s likely successor, citing a comprehensive analysis of her public activities and the state protocols provided to her.

The NIS public affairs office told The Associated Press that it still considers all possibilities regarding the North’s power succession process because Kim is still young, has no major health issues, and has at least one other child. Kim turns 40 on Monday.

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