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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

NIS chief confirms North Korean leader has three kids

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Kim Kyou-hyun, head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), at the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee in Yeouido, Seoul, on Tuesday. Kim and the NIS reported on North Korean latest movements as well as the children of its leader Kim Jong-un. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
Kim Kyou-hyun, head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), at the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee in Yeouido, Seoul, on Tuesday. Kim and the NIS reported on North Korean latest movements as well as the children of its leader Kim Jong-un. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

South Korea’s intelligence agency confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has three children.

“We are certain that Kim Jong-un’s oldest child is a son,” said Kim Kyou-hyun, head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), on Tuesday. “While we have confirmed the birth of a third child, the sex has not been confirmed as of now.”

The NIS chief told the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee that while the intelligence agency has no specific evidence on the eldest son, it was certain about his sex through information shared by other foreign intelligence agencies.

“The son has never been seen in public, and there’s no intelligence that confirms rumors of physical or mental disabilities,” Kim said.

While there has been speculation that Kim has three children, two of which are sons, only his second child — Kim Ju-ae — has made public appearances.

The NIS chief told lawmakers that Kim Ju-ae’s public appearances seem to have been aimed at reminding North Koreans about the legitimacy of a fourth-generation succession.

However, as Kim Jong-un is still young and healthy, an early succession seems unnecessary.

“It seems that Kim Ju-ae has never attended a regular education institution and was home schooled,” Kim said. “And her hobbies appear to be horseback riding, swimming and skiing.”

The NIS chief added, “We have information that Kim Jong-un is very satisfied with Kim Ju-ae’s skilled horseback riding.”

The daughter made her first public appearance last November at the launch of the North Korean ballistic missile Hwasong-17.

She is assumed to be 10 years old.

Since then, she has made frequent appearances, including one where she stood next to her father at a military parade in Pyongyang last month.

The South Korean intelligence chief said North Korea will likely conduct a large-scale exercise that combines nuclear and conventional weapons in March and April when South Korea and the U.S. are holding military exercises of their own, and when the presidents of the two allies meet for a summit.

North Korea is especially likely to launch a new intercontinental ballistic missile with solid fuel.

“There is also the possibility of launching a reconnaissance satellite under orders from Kim Jong-un in April,” Kim said.

The NIS chief also told the parliamentary committee that North Korean spies may have been involved in the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) subcontractors’ union strike last year.

The NIS is investigating the case, he said.

Union workers held a 51-day strike, which included a union leader wielding himself into a cage in the middle of one of the ships under construction.

DSME estimates the strike cost the company 810 billion won (over $620 million).

Starting next year, the NIS’s counterespionage investigation role will be transferred to the police under a reform law pushed by the Moon Jae-in government.

BY HAN JEE-HYE, LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]