North Korea’s ruling dynasty could have its newest member.
After months of speculation over whether Ri Sol-ju, Kim Jong-un's wife, was pregnant, there are now reports that the couple’s first baby was born in secret. The reports have not been confirmed by North Korea or otherwise verified.
Speculation over the possibility of the North Korean first couple having a child hit a high point in January, when South Korean media closely analyzed photos of Ri where she appeared to have lost some heft around her midsection, suggesting that she might have given birth.
Ri appeared last week at a basketball game held during the visit of former NBA player Dennis Rodman. She was photographed standing and applauding. She showed no obvious signs of pregnancy or having recently given birth, and of course, did not have a baby with her.
Very little has been mentioned about this in South Korea, where the media are currently focused on new president Park Geun-hye’s efforts to establish her government. Much of the discussion has come from US media.
"If it was a boy, [the North Koreans] would have made an announcement," Michael Madden, editor of the North Korea Leadership Watch, an online newsletter, told the Washington Free Beacon.
If a female baby was indeed born, she is unlikely to be pegged to take over leadership of the totalitarian state in her adulthood. The three member Kim dynasty has been all male and the country is still patriarchal; instances of women in positions of authority are not common.
Kim Jong-un is believed to be 30, and has been married for at least a year (the date of his marriage is not known, but Ri started appearing in public with him last year, which had not been common for the wives of North Korean leaders). It is therefore a natural time for the couple to look to have their first child, according to Korean convention.
Hereditary succession is a key part of North Korea’s leadership. Founder Kim Il-sung is the country’s leader in perpetuity, even though he has been dead since 1994. Indeed, in common parlance, North Koreans still refer to the country they live in as “Kim Il-sung’s country.”
The fact that Kim Jong-un is a direct descendant of his grandfather was an important part of what allowed him to take over leadership of the country at a young age and with minimal experience.
Barring any unforeseen shakeups like a war or a coup, Kim Jong-un would likely be succeeded by a son someday. But that is too far in the future to know, and as this speculation over the dynasty’s next member shows, it is hard to know anything with certainty when it comes to North Korea.