were not the nuclear missilesthe ranks of goose-stepping soldiers or the generals with medals that attracted the most attention in the recent North Korean military parade: was a 10 year old girl.
Together with the country’s leader, kim jong unthe girl -probably the Kim’s second daughter, Ju-ae– reviewed the honor guard in the latest in a series of high-profile appearances that have sparked fervent speculations that has been anointed heiress.
Who is it?
For years, North Korean state media never mentioned Kim’s children, though the Seoul spy agency has said it has three with his wife. They are believed to be around 13, 10 and 6 years.
The only previous confirmation of its existence came from the former NBA star Dennis Rodmanwho claimed to have met a young daughter of Kim’s named Ju-ae during a visit to North Korea in 2013.
But three months ago, at the launch of his most powerful ICBM, Kim showed up with his “Dear daughter piggyback.
Although North Korea has never officially identified her by name, the Seoul spy agency and analysts believe the girl is Ju-ae, Kim’s second daughter.
Is she Kim’s heiress?
It seemsaccording to experts.
The state media have described it as Kim’s “beloved” and “respected” daughterand she has been seen walking hand in hand with her father, while her mother was behind them.
According to Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, this indicates that North Korea has started to create a “cult of personality” around Ju-ae.
This “indicates that it has been designated de facto successoralthough it does not yet have the official status of ‘successor’”, he stated.
In the state media images, Ju-ae appears in the center, next to her father and surrounded by the country’s high command.
“This suggests that Kim Ju-ae will become the supreme commander of the army in the future,” Cheong added.
Will North Korea accept a female leader?
Bronwen Dalton, head of the Department of Management at the University of Technology Sydney’s Business School, says North Korea’s glass ceiling has been bulletproof when it comes to women taking on political leadership roles. .
But change is underway, he says, and North Korean leaders try to “maintain their legitimacy by creating a new version of femininity” that reflects the social changes that have occurred in the country in recent decades.
The younger generations “have grown up buying and selling in markets, using mobile phones and accessing foreign media content,” forcing North Korea to recalibrate your version of the ideal woman.
The current North Korean leadership, although predominantly male, has some high-profile women, such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Choe Son Huiand Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jongas spokesperson for the regime.
Kim Jong-un “presides over a propaganda apparatus that forges a new narrative on the place of womenDalton declared to the AFP.
But above all, the most important role of all North Korean women remains “devotion to his ‘father’ Kim Jong-un”which Ju-ae embodies perfectly, he added.
So will he be in command one day?
Not necessarily, experts say.
“Perhaps more than in any other country, relying on family ties and being close to power is precarious,” Dalton said, pointing to a “revolving door” of family members who have been exiled from North Korea or killed.
“Women are not immune,” he added.
A woman leader is still “impossible” in North Korea for now, declared to the AFP An Chan-il, a defector turned researcher who heads the World Institute for North Korean Studies.
“Nobody would take kindly to the idea that Kim Jong-un disappeared immediately and Ju-ae had to succeed him”he claimed.
But its gradual introduction to the public over the next decade or two, along with “ideological education,” should help, he said.
“North Koreans rarely question who becomes ruler”.
What about Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal?
Although North Korea is not a monarchy, Kim Jong-un is the third generation of his family to rule the country, after his father and grandfather, founding leader Kim Il-sung.
For the Kims, one of the most important elements of preserving the regime has been their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“Celebrations of North Korea’s building of nuclear-capable missiles may seem like strange occasions to project a childish image,” but they are effective domestic propaganda, he told the AFP Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Kim is presenting Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal as a multi-generational national security asset, while proclaiming the military’s total loyalty to his political dynasty.”
(With information from AFP)
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