Presence of Kim Jong-un’s daughter may not signal change: analysts

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Presence of Kim Jong-un’s daughter may not signal change: analysts

Presence of Kim Jong-un’s daughter may not signal change: analysts


Though the unexpected appearance of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s daughter raised speculation that she could be a successor in the making, analysts say it would be an unprecedented uphill struggle in the male-dominated dynasty

Each change at the top in North Korea has raised the prospect of a leadership vacuum or collapse of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled the country since its founding in 1948.

Kim Jong-un’s daughter – who was not named in state media – appeared in coverage of a ballistic missile launch on Saturday, watching the firing and holding her father’s hand as he examined the missile. This provided the first official confirmation that Kim has children, and underscored a message that the family is here to stay, analysts said.

However, the unveiling of Kim’s daughter may not be evidence that the reclusive regime is ready for a woman as its future leader, a North Korean defector said.

“In North Korea, gender is still an important [factor] to be a leader. It would have been possible if Chairman Kim Jong-un didn’t have any sons, however, as far as it’s known, he does have sons. Under that circumstance, he can’t disregard his sons and let a girl be a [future] ruler,” said Hyun In-ae, who now works at the Ewha Institute of Unification Studies in Seoul.

“When I was in North Korea, I had a perception that a leader should be a man. In North Korea, it is said that women have equal rights, but women are still seen as supporting figures for men. Marking Mother’s Day on November 16, the North published an editorial. It says a mother’s role is to raise children well and make them contribute to the country,” Hyun added.

Presence of Kim Jong-un’s daughter may not signal change: analysts

Even so, some analysts said gender may not disqualify a daughter or other women from taking on the reins, despite North Korea’s deeply patriarchal society. Kim has elevated several women to powerful positions, including his sister Yo Jong, and Choe Son Hui, the country’s first female foreign minister.

“The fact that Kim Jong-un came out with one of his three children suggests that he has the daughter in mind as a successor to his nuclear weapons-enhancing rhetoric for the future,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Sejong Institute’s North Korean Studies Centre.

“Since he’s come to power, he has appeared in public with Ri Sol Ju, like the other leaders of the West. He is showing a fairly gender-equal image. So I think being a woman would not be a particular disadvantage to be made a successor for Kim,” Cheong added.

Yet, other analysts cautioned that it is far too early to tell whether she is a successor or simply a symbol used to assure citizens that nuclear weapons would protect children and be “monuments to be passed down to our descendants for generations”, as state media reported.

“If we focus too much on her, we would forget the essential parts, such as the impact of North Korea’s Hwasong-17 on the international community. Only his daughter is being highlighted now. So I think we need to be a little cautious so that we don’t get distracted by the daughter’s appearance and see her as everything about the North Korean regime,” said Prof Kim Yong-hyun at Dongguk University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.


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