There is nothing arbitrary in how North Korea presents itself to the outside world, or to its own people.
North Korean propaganda is so manicured that analysts monitor its output for the smallest adjustments to national narratives seeking insights into the machinations of one of the world’s most secluded, nuclear-armed states.
Those analysts went into overdrive late last year when one of North Korea’s biggest non-nuclear secrets was revealed: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s daughter, believed to be about 10 years old.
Some considered the public presentation of Kim Ju Ae – who has featured extensively in photographs and video footage from the state’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) – as the first steps in a potential succession plan by her father.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his wife Ri Sol Ju and their daughter Kim Ju Ae attend a banquet to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army the following day, in Pyongyang, North Korea February 7, 2023 in this photo released February 8, 2023 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, left, and their daughter Kim Ju Ae, centre, attend a banquet to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army in Pyongyang, North Korea, in February 2023 [File: KCNA via Reuters]
Others view her appearance as something more mundane: An attempt by Kim to leverage his image as a family man to shore up support when the North Korean economy is faltering and he is spending lavishly on a ballistic missile programme and developing nuclear capabilities.
While the timing of Ju Ae’s public debut is still being debated, the photogenic youngest is now the closest Pyongyang has to a “crown princess”, says one expert.