N.K. leader ‘in hurry’ to highlight his daughter to show his will for succession: minister

December 6, 2023

Dec. 6 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to have been “in a hurry” to bring his daughter to the forefront in a bid to demonstrate his commitment to the third hereditary power succession, Seoul’s top point man on Pyongyang said Wednesday.

Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho made the assessment amid speculation that frequent public appearances by Kim’s daughter, believed to be named Ju-ae, may indicate she could be anointed to succeed her father.

“The North Korean leader appears to be in a hurry to highlight his daughter in an indication that he is trying to demonstrate his will for succession in the face of difficulties (facing the North),” Kim said in a meeting with reporters at a hotel in Yangpyeong, about 40 kilometers east of Seoul.

This file photo, taken Nov. 21, 2023, shows Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho speaking at a policy forum in Seoul. (Yonhap)
This file photo, taken Nov. 21, 2023, shows Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho speaking at a policy forum in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The minister said there are “signs” that North Korea has been facing multiple difficulties, citing a series of closures of its diplomatic missions and a food shortage.

Kim called on the North’s leader to shift the focus of state policy to measures to improve people’s livelihoods from military-focused policy at a key party meeting set for later this month.

North Korea plans to hold a plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party late this month in a bid to review its 2023 policy measures and unveil its policy lines for next year.

“(The North’s leader) should make a bold decision for the economy and people’s livelihoods by realizing that it is impossible to catch the two rabbits of the military and the economy,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, a senior official at the unification ministry said Kim Ju-ae appears to have emerged “at an early stage” in the process of a hereditary succession.

In a party congress in 2021, North Korea newly awarded the title of general secretary to Kim Jong-un and created the posts of seven secretaries, including the first secretary.

The first secretary of the Workers’ Party could assume Kim Jong-un’s role when the general secretary cannot perform his duty.

“The position of the first secretary has been vacant. This could be in consideration of Kim Ju-ae,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Ju-ae, believed to be around 10 years old, made her first public appearance on Nov. 18, 2022, when she, along with her father, attended the firing of a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile.

Unification Minister Kim earlier left open the possibility that Ju-ae could be an heir apparent to succeed Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-un took over the communist country following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011. The late Kim inherited power from his father, the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994.