North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, along with his daughter, inspects an ICBM in th
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, along with his daughter, inspects an ICBM in thKCNA via REUTERS

The young daughter of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen as her father’s likely heir apparent, South Korea’s spy agency said on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

There has been intense outside debate and speculation about Kim’s daughter, reportedly about 10 years old and named Ju Ae, since she made her first public appearance in November 2022, when she watched a long-range missile test launch with her father.

The girl has since accompanied her father to a slew of major public events, with state media calling her Kim Jong Un’s “most beloved” or “respected” child and churning out footage and photos proving her rising political standing and closeness with her father, noted AP.

A senior general knelt and whispered to her when she clapped while watching a military parade at a VIP observation stand in September. She was photographed standing in front of her father at one point during a visit to the air force headquarters in November, with both Kims wearing sunglasses and long leather jackets. In a New Year’s Eve celebration at a packed Pyongyang stadium Sunday, Kim Jong Un kissed her on the cheek and she did the same to her father.

South Korea’s main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said Thursday that it sees Kim Ju Ae as her father’s likely successor, citing a comprehensive analysis of her public activities and the state protocols provided to her.

The NIS public affairs office told AP that it still considers all possibilities regarding the North’s power succession process because Kim is still young, has no major health issues, and has at least one other child. Kim turns 40 on Monday.

Since its foundation in 1948, North Korea has been successively ruled by male members of the Kim family. Kim Jong Un inherited power upon his father Kim Jong Il’s death in late 2011. Kim Jong Il took over power after his father and state founder Kim Il Sung died in 1994.

The report comes as North Korea has upped its rhetoric in recent weeks. Kim told the country's military commanders earlier this week that the most powerful means must be mobilized to destroy the United States and South Korea if they choose a military confrontation.

In late December, the North Korean leader said Pyongyang would not hesitate to respond with a nuclear attack when an enemy provokes it with nuclear weapons.

Those comments came days after North Korea twice fired ballistic missiles into the sea off the coast of South Korea.