The Girl From Paekdu

Kim Jong-un introduces his daughter — and potential successor — to the world.

Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, right, and his daughter inspect a missile at Pyongyang International Airport at Pyongyang, North Korea on Friday, November 18, 2022. Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

It must be in the genes. How else to explain the resemblance of the North Korean leader’s tween-age daughter to her father?

For two days now, North Korea’s state press has been showing pictures of Kim Jong-un with his daughter at the launch of North Korea’s latest, greatest missile, a Hwasong17 with a range that could easily put Washington in reach.

We have to take the word of a retired American basketball star, Dennis Rodman, for the name of the girl, which has never been disclosed by the North Koreans. When he visited North Korea as Mr. Kim’s guest in 2013, he cradled her in his arms and said she was Ju-ae.

Now Ju-ae, who may be aged 12 or so, is growing up and evincing the same hefty build and puffy cheeks as her father. Yet why is he telling his propaganda machine to introduce her to the world?

Mr. Kim seems to have decided to bring her with her mother, Ri Sol-ju, to the launch not only for the fun of seeing a missile whoosh into space, but also to demonstrate the continuity of the bloodline. 

As the grandson of Kim Il-sung, founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the son of his successor, Kim Jong-il, Mr. Kim presumably is determined to perpetuate the dynasty, and he’s evidently picked Ju-ae as the likeliest for the job even though she’s growing up in a male-dominated culture.

It’s all about maintaining the sacred “Paekdu bloodline,” the mystique that the Korean people originated from around Mount Paekdu, the mountain on the Chinese border that is the highest peak on the Korean peninsula. 

North Korean propaganda holds that Kim Il-sung was based there while fighting the Japanese before Japan’s surrender in 1945 and that Kim Jong-il was born there. (The eldest Kim, an officer in the Soviet army, actually lived in the Russian city of Khabarovsk, where Kim Jong-il was born.)

By introducing his daughter to his people and the rest of the world, Mr. Kim “indicates his confidence in the ‘Paekdu bloodline,’” the president of the University of North Korean Studies at Seoul, Yang Moo-jin, told South Korea’s Yonhap News. Yonhap also reports the view that the unveiling of the child suggests Mr. Kim’s “confidence in the missile test’s success and the regime’s security.”

The photographs of father and daughter have captured far more attention than the launch of the missile, which Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency reported had soared to a height of some 3,750 miles before landing “in international waters” of the East Sea, as Koreans call the Sea of Japan.

The shot, the Korean news agency said in English, “clearly proved the reliability of the new major strategic weapon system to be representative of the DPRK’s strategic forces and its powerful combat performance as the strongest strategic weapon in the world.”

Why did Mr. Kim decide to show off just his daughter, believed to be the second of his three children, rather than all three of them?

The answer may be that Mr. Kim has already decided she’s the best and brightest of the three and wanted to make that clear distinction. Now 39, he is reportedly believed to have had medical problems that account for several lengthy disappearances from public view. He’ll probably be around for a while, but he likely wanted to demonstrate the continuity of the dynasty and show who’s next in line.

Of course, Mr. Kim also needed to let the world know that he has not the slightest intention of giving up his nuclear and missile program, his greatest point of pride for “defense” against his enemies.

The New York Sun

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