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What we know about Kim Jong-un’s family

With wife Ri, North Korean leader believed to have three children, the second of whom just stepped out of mystery

North Korea is an enigma to the outside world. The top of its regime -- the Kim family -- is also shrouded in walls of secrecy, not just to the outside world but also to the general public within the communist state.

Last week in a rare revelation, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un showed to the world one of his three known children. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service confirmed the girl to be Ju-ae, the second child of Kim born in 2013.

The Friday coverage of North Korea’s state-run media reported the leader inspected the launch of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-17 with his wife, Ri Sol-ju, and his “beloved daughter," along with the release of several photos showing father and daughter.

'Beloved daughter'

Ju-ae’s presence was first revealed by former NBA star Dennis Rodman during his visit to North Korea. When the former Chicago Bulls forward visited the hermit kingdom in September 2013 on an invitation from Kim himself, Rodman said he held Kim’s daughter who was just born, and that the baby’s name was Ju-ae.

Kim Jong-un (right) and his daughter Kim Ju-ae
Kim Jong-un (right) and his daughter Kim Ju-ae

At that time very little had been known about Kim’s family, except for his wife Ri and the child Rodman had met was assumed to be the first child of the couple.

The National Intelligence Service in Seoul later said that Kim has an elder child -- a son born in 2010.

While confirming the girl beside Kim Jong-un is his second child, the spy agency cited its previously-acquired information that Ju-ae is quite bigger than an average 10-year-old child.

Local Chosun Ilbo reported earlier this month, citing anonymous North Korean defector sources, that the second child’s name Ju-ae is a combination of the last part of Ri’s name (Ju) and Ae, which means love. The claim has not been confirmed by any authorities.

What we know about the Kim family

Most of South Korea's and the world's intelligence about Kim and his children are based on secondhand information from sources and cannot be independently verified -- unless Kim decides to do a reveal, as in the case of his daughter.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) inspects the launch of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-17 on Friday, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju (second from right) and their daughter Kim Ju-ae. (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) inspects the launch of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-17 on Friday, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju (second from right) and their daughter Kim Ju-ae. (Yonhap)

Indicative of the lack of information about Kim’s family, a now-debunked rumor in September claimed a short-haired girl that appeared during the anniversary of the founding of North Korea may be Ju-ae. A group of girls performed on stage for the event, and one girl in particular was seemingly favored by Kim, Ri and Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jung.

From what intelligence officials have gathered so far, it appears wife Ri and the three children are the extent of Kim Jong-un's family, unlike that of his father, preceding leader Kim Jong-il, who had children out of wedlock.

While it has been confirmed Kim’s daughter is in Pyongyang, no information about Kim’s oldest child -- the probable heir to the North Korean leadership -- has been made public other than his year of birth. This is not uncommon for the reclusive country, as Kim Jong-un himself has remained mostly in the shadows until he was announced the heir in 2010.

As for the youngest child, thought to be born in 2017, even its gender remains unknown.



By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)
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