By HYUNG-JIN KIM
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who was recently seen in public for the first time at a missile launch site is his second child aged about 10, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Tuesday, as speculation swirled about his motives for bringing her to the attention of the outside world.
On Saturday, North Korea said that Kim observed the launch of the country’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile — Hwasong-17 — the previous day with his wife Ri Sol Ju and their “beloved daughter.” State media released photos showing Kim walking hand-in-hand with a young girl clad in a white coat and red shoes past a massive missile placed on a launch truck, and watching a soaring weapon from a distance.
In a closed-door briefing at a parliament committee, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, the country’s main spy agency, told lawmakers that it assesses the daughter is Kim’s second child named Ju Ae and aged around 10, Yoo Sang-bum, one of the lawmakers who attended the meeting, said.
The NIS determined she is Kim’s second child because her looks matched information that she’s taller and bigger than other girls who are the same age, Yoo cited the NIS as saying.
Youn Kun-young, who also attended the NIS meeting, said he also was briefed that she is Kim’s second child but refused to provide further details.
The NIS said it cannot confirm the lawmakers’ comments. It typically neither confirms nor denies the contents of its private briefings provided at parliament. The NIS has a spotty record in confirming developments in North Korea, one of the world’s most secretive nations.
The daughter apparently is Kim’s child who retired NBA star Dennis Rodman saw during his trip to Pyongyang in 2013. After that Pyongyang visit, Rodman told the British newspaper Guardian that he and Kim had a “relaxing time by the sea” with the leader’s family and that he held Kim’s baby daughter, named Ju Ae.
It was the first time North Korea officially confirmed her existence. North Korea’s state media didn’t disclose the age, name and other details of Kim’s daughter last week. South Korean media have speculated Kim married Ri in 2009 and that they have three children, who were born in 2010, 2013 and 2017, respectively. Some reports said Kim’s first child is a son and the third one is a daughter.
Kim, 38, is a third generation of his family to run North Korea since 1948. He inherited power in late 2011 upon the death of his father Kim Jong Il.
Kim and his father were both first mentioned in state media dispatches after they became adults. Given that, the revealing of the daughter believed to be in her early teens came as a surprise to outside observers.
Some experts say the daughter’s disclosing at a missile test site showed that Kim was emboldened by his advancing nuclear arsenal, the backbone of his family’s rule. Others speculate if Kim continues to bring her to major public events, that could suggest that Kim might have her as his early heir apparent in his mind.
North Korea’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Sunday that it will continue to expand its nuclear arsenal to ensure “the bright smiles and beautiful dreams of our future generations” Some observers linked the article to the daughter’s presence, saying Kim might have revealed her to stress the justification of his nuclear ambitions or show it’s his family that governs the nation’s nuclear and missile programs.