The sudden rise of Kim Jong-un’s young daughter suggests she’s “the chosen one” to succeed him as North Korea’s Supreme Leader – potentially to the doom of his once-powerful sister, according to experts.

Kim Ju Ae – thought to be around aged around nine or 10 – has repeatedly appeared alongside her father at key events since her existence was first confirmed in November, and this week is even honoured on five new stamps, the New York Post reports.

It also emerged this week North Korea was reportedly banning parents from naming their child Ju Ae, and compelling women and girls with that name to change it at Kim’s behest.

Experts told the Daily Beast the sudden rise of Kim’s young daughter suggests he no longer relies on his sister, Kim Yo Jong – a precarious position to be in for any of his kin.

“Kim had both his uncle and his half-brother murdered,” David Straub, a former senior diplomat in the American Embassy in Seoul, told the outlet.

“I’ll bet everyone in the Kim clan remembered, perhaps especially Yo Jong.”

Bruce Bennett, a longtime North Korea analyst at the RAND Corporation, suggested that the younger sibling’s headline-grabbing role at previous events may have spelled her downfall.

“My guess is that Mr Kim was getting really upset by all of the outside media on his sister being his potential or likely successor,” Prof Bennett told The Beast.

He noted that Mr Kim’s uncle-in-law, Jang Song Thaek, had initially been No. 2 and the man offering advice before Mr Kim ordered his execution nearly 10 years ago.

Mr Kim “did not want to hear that his uncle was his regent,” Prof Bennett told the outlet.

“Kim Yo Jong is lucky that she is not as dead as Kim’s uncle,” he also said.

Kim Ju Ae, thought to be the despot’s second-born child, recently took centre stage at a massive military parade in Pyongyang and appeared in soon-to-be-released postage stamps.

State media have called her Mr Kim’s “most beloved” or “respected” child, publishing photos of her touching her father’s cheek.

Yo Jong – who previously held a similar role supporting her brother – was not featured prominently at the events or at all on the stamps.

Mr Kim’s daughter’s sudden ascension has even led to a parliamentary committee meeting in the Hermit Kingdom’s neighbour, South Korea, to discuss the belief that she’s being primed as the North’s next leader.

Further cementing the rumours, sources told Radio Free Asia that North Korean females named Ju Ae are being told to get new names – because there can only be one Ju Ae if she becomes Supreme Leader.

Still, Yo Jong’s aunt still likely plays a pivotal role in preparing her young niece given her tender age, the experts suggested.

If Ju Ae “is being groomed as the successor, many more years of education and training will be needed before she will be able to assume the reins,” Evans Revere, formerly with the State Department in Washington D.C. and the US Embassy in Seoul, told the Daily Beast.

Yo Jong’s fate could ultimately rest on the health of her brother, who – despite being just 39 – is obese and has suffered a series of rumoured health scares in recent years.

The dictator is “hardly a picture of health,” Mr Revere noted.

Kisam Kim, a former member of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, suggested that Yo Jong’s only chance is if her brother “perishes immediately”.

Mr Kim suggested that it’s very likely that the “crazy man has issues with his health, and he knows his days are numbered”.

Despite this, politicians in the South doubt Mr Kim will break with tradition and select his kingdom’s first female leader.

Unification Minister Kwon Youngse, South Korea’s top official on North Korea, told a parliamentary hearing that it was unlikely the North would pick “a woman [to] inherit power.”

Since its foundation in 1948, North Korea has been successively ruled by male members of the Kim family, and only a handful of powerful positions are filled by women.

“It’s too soon to assume that (Kim Ju Ae) will be his heir because the son has always succeeded the throne in North Korea,” said Duyeon Kim, a senior analyst at the Center for a New American Security in Washington D.C.

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“So, we don’t yet know if Kim Jong-un is willing to break tradition regarding the gender of his successor or if she will play a key role to support whoever Kim appoints.”

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission



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