SEOUL/PYONGYANG – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has a baby daughter named Ju Ae, according to former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who labeled the supreme ruler of the isolated, authoritarian state a “good dad.”
Rodman, who calls Kim a friend and just returned from his second visit to Pyongyang, told The Guardian newspaper that he had spent a “relaxing time by the sea” with the leader’s family,” during his latest five-day trip.
“I held their baby, Ju Ae, and spoke with (Kim’s wife) as well. He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family,” Rodman said.
While more of a public personality than his introverted father, Kim Jong Il, ever was, little is known about Kim’s personal life. Even his age is a matter of dispute, with reports ranging from 29 to 31.
The fact that he was married was only revealed in July last year when pictures emerged of a young woman accompanying the new leader at official events.
A child watch began after state television images in December showed his wife, Ri Sol Ju, looking heavily pregnant.
There was no official confirmation of the birth, but Rodman had commented after his first surprise visit to Pyongyang six months ago that Ri had spoken often of her baby daughter.
There have been unconfirmed reports that the couple already had one child.
Kim is the third-generation leader from the ruling dynasty begun by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and followed by his late father, Kim Jong Il.
In such a conservative, hierarchical society as North Korea, observers say there is almost no chance of the leadership succession being passed to a daughter.
According to a report last month by the Chosun Ilbo daily, Kim Jong Un’s former girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad for violating North Korean laws against pornography. They were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos.
On Monday, the North Korean leader attended events in central Pyongyang marking the nation’s 65th birthday, but made no public comments before leaving the lavish event.
Flanked by generals and senior government officials, Kim stood in a high viewing area well above and away from the sea of onlookers who cheered and held up colorful placards in unison as the troops filed passed. North Korea watchers had hoped the young leader might address the crowd to shed some light on the isolated and secretive nation’s politics or diplomatic goals.
The military parade in Kim Il Sung Square featured mostly reserve troops and did not include displays of the kind of heavy artillery, tanks and missiles that the North rolled out in July to commemorate the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula in 1953.
A day earlier, a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Seoul and Washington had mapped out a joint operational plan that outlines concrete measures to deter and respond to Pyongyang’s nuclear threats. No details were given of the defensive and offensive measures included in the plan.