South Korean spies predict North’s likely next leader – Nikkei
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s daughter, believed to be named Kim Ju-ae, is his likely successor, Nikkei Asia has reported, citing Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). The agency is said to have noted that “many variables” are still at play, suggesting that other candidates may still emerge.
According to Nikkei Asia, the new NIS chief, Cho Tae-yong, briefed South Korean MPs in a report ahead of a hearing on Thursday that “based on a comprehensive analysis of public activities,” Kim Ju-ae “at present appears to be the most likely successor.”
Reportedly aged around 10, Kim Ju-ae made her first public appearance in November 2022, when she watched a test of a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile along with her father and mother. The country’s state-run KCNA press agency described the youngster as the leader’s “beloved daughter” at the time, stopping short, however, of revealing her name.
She has since made 20 appearances, accompanying the North Korean leader to missile launches and military sites.
The idea that the girl’s name is Kim Ju-ae is based on an account from former US basketball star Dennis Rodman, who visited North Korea and met with its leader and his family back in 2013.
The purported conclusion echoed an assessment voiced late last year by a senior official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
If true, the latest NIS assessment marks a shift from its previous statements, with the spy agency saying in a report in September that it was too early to speculate as to Kim Ju-ae’s status as Kim Jong-un’s heir.
South Korea’s intelligence service claimed in 2017 that the DPRK leader has three children: a son born in 2010, a daughter born in 2013, and a child of unconfirmed gender born in 2017.
In his latest report, as quoted by Nikkei Asia, the NIS chief pointed out that Kim Jong-un is still relatively young and apparently has no serious health problems, meaning that candidates other than his daughter could yet emerge to become North Korea’s next leader.