Once an elusive figure, the daughter of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has become a reliable mainstay at her father’s side in state-orchestrated photoshoots in recent months.
Kim Ju Ae, who is expected to eventually take over from her father, was snapped on Thursday in a sharp leather trench coat with a furry lapel – an outfit that could have almost been borrowed from her father’s noir-inspired wardrobe.
Followed by a military procession in Pyongyang to mark the 76th founding anniversary of the army, the pair stood out against a sea of olive in matching dark longcoats, black shoes and black trousers.
As Kim Ju Ae, who is believed to be between ages 10 and 12, is readied for possible leadership of the Hermit Kingdom, experts say her outfits symbolise her closeness to her father – and her future role.
Kim Ju Ae (centre left) stands tall alongside her father at a military parade on February 8
The father-daughter duo attended the anniversary of the founding of the army in the capital
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, accompanied by his daughter Kim Ju Ae, visits a military vehicle production plant on January 5, 2024
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarters in North Korea, on August 27, 2023
North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, right, and his daughter visit the country’s aerospace agency North Korea Tuesday, May 16, 2023
The daughter of Kim Jong Un and First Lady Ri Sol-Ju, Kim Ju-ae was hidden away from foreign media through childhood until American former basketball player Dennis Rodman identified her after visiting in 2013.
But for years, little was known about Kim Ju-ae, believed to be the middle child of three, until she made her first public appearance at the time of a missile launch in November 2022.
At this time, it was still believed the Supreme Leader’s eldest sister, Kim Yo Jong, was being lined up to replace him as the fourth-generation of leaders under the Kim Dynasty.
Yo Jong is still Deputy Department Director for the country’s quasi-Orwellian ‘Publicity and Information Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea’, and still could take the top job, but has made fewer public-facing appearances.
On November 19, North Korea’s leader was then pictured holding hands with his daughter as they toured a ballistic missile facility with Ri Sol Ju.
Michael Madden, a fellow of the Stimson Centre in Washington DC, said at the time her appearance signaled to the world the leadership of the state would stay within the family.
‘This is the first observed occasion where we have seen Kim Jong Un’s daughter at a public event,’ he said.
‘It is highly significant and represents a certain degree of comfort on Kim Jong Un’s part that he would bring her out in public in such fashion.’
‘What we are seeing, is Kim telecasting that fourth-generation hereditary succession is highly likely to happen.
‘This is intended to communicate it to the wider North Korean elite as well as to foreign governments.’
Kim Ju Ae made five appearances between her first in November 2022 and February 2023 – and that month even became the face of new postage stamps.
On February 8 last year, Kim Jong Un donned a double breasted jacket and a fedora hat as he appeared alongside his wife, also clad in dark colours, and his daughter in a similar style and matching hat.
In August, the pair presided over a review of the honour guard during their visit to the country’s naval headquarters. The Supreme Leader was pictured in a beige suit and tie.
While perhaps a little dated in style, the suit is worlds away from the zip-up suit that made his father a ‘global fashion icon’ – in the eyes of some.
‘Global fashion icon’ Kim Jong Il dons a bespoke zip up suit with an apparently elasticated waist and lapels in 2001
His daughter, meanwhile, appeared in a white blazer and black trousers to match the maritime milieu.
Again, she is seen to mimic her father without wearing an identical outfit.
Then in December, the father-daughter duo were pictured together again in lighter shades, the dictator in a light green coat and his daughter in a pastel pink fluffy outer layer.
At the start of this year the stood side-by-side at a military vehicle production plant in pictures released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Kim Jong Un wore a black jacket with a fuzzy trim as his daughter matched in a leather black jacket with a fuzzy trim.
Two days later, Kim Sr was snapped wearing the same jacket as he examined eggs at a farm near the capital while his daughter opted for a more toned-down black coat with geometric print.
Alison Lowe MBE, industry consultant and course leader of MBA Fashion Entrepreneurship at UEL, told MailOnline: ‘Kim Jong Un and his daughter Kim Ju Ae usually appear in public in matching outfits which seems to represent a clearly controlled tactical approach to how they present themselves to the world.
‘Wearing similar clothes can be used to serve several purposes and in this case, it could be a clear message to emphasize their familial bond and unity, projecting an image of a close-knit family to the public.
‘In authoritarian regimes like North Korea, these displays of unity are used to visually present political stability and reinforce authority in the same way that the military employ uniforms to promote concord, professionalism, tradition, functionality, and security among its ranks.’
Until Ju-ae’s sudden appearance, it was rumoured that Kim’s eldest sister – Kim Yo-jong – was being lined up to replace him
Kim Jong Un (R), his daughter and wife Ri Sol Ju (L) attend a military parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army on February 8, 2023
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter Kim Ju Ae look at eggs at the Kwangchon Chicken Farm near Pyongyang, North Korea, January 7, 2024
Kim Jong Un (R) is pictured with his daughter as they examine the flight path of a test missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea on December 19, 2023
Kim Ju-ae (pictured with her father) almost certainly met with US basketball player Dennis Rodman when he visited North Korea in 2013, and held her as a baby
Oana Cristina Grigorescu, a fashion writer for Fizzy Mag, agreed.
She said: ‘There’s a rich tapestry of symbolism and political messaging woven into their public appearances.
‘Kim Jong Un’s wardrobe remains steadfastly anchored in the Mao-style suit, an enduring symbol of socialist leadership that transcends mere fashion to become a visual manifesto of North Korean ideals.
This is about creating a visual continuity that suggests a smooth transition of power and ideology.
‘It is austere, authoritative, and unmistakably linked to the legacy of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, establishing a lineage of leadership that is both visually and ideologically seamless.
‘Kim Ju Ae’s style choices are fascinating in their strategic simplicity. Like her father, she opts for muted, solid colors, favoring clean lines and modest designs that speak to tradition and formality.
‘There is a deliberate echo in their attire, a sartorial harmony that suggests a shared vision and a united front. Her presence is complementary, yet it is impossible to ignore the significance of her wardrobe mirroring that of her father’s.’
Ms Grigorescu said that her coats, ‘often dark, well-tailored and classic’, ‘subtly mirror’ the silhouette of her father’s – a likely intentional move ‘about creating a visual continuity that suggests a smooth transition of power and ideology’.
‘From a fashion perspective, these choices are not about individual expression but about reinforcing a narrative,’ she went on.
‘The clothes do not just dress the person; they dress the role, the ideology, and the anticipated future.
‘Each appearance is a carefully curated portrait of power, designed to acclimate the onlooker to the prospect of succession and stability.’
Oana is a fashion writer and published author.
Alexandra Wood, founder of a bespoke tailoring outlet, said matching outfits ‘suggest a deliberate effort to ensure continuity within the regime, introduce Ju Ae into the Kim dynasty’s cult of personality, and prepare the public for a possible dynastic succession.
‘It reinforces national unity and the seamless transition of power, subtly positioning her as a future leader.’
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un talks with his daughter Kim Ju Ae at a banquet to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army on February 7, 2023
Little is known about Kim Ju-ae, who is thought to be aged around 10 and is thought to be the middle of three children Kim has with his wife, Ri Sol-ju
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un (3-R) and his daughter Ju-ae (2-R) watch the launch of an ICBM at an undisclosed location in North Korea, December 18, 2023
In her first public appearance in November 2022, Kim Jong Un took his daughter (left) on a family day out – to an intercontinental ballistic missile launch
The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter are pictured inspecting the testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile at Pyongyang International Airport, North Korea
Kim Jong Un is thought to have three children, including Kim Ju Ae, another younger daughter and an older son. One of the children is thought to have appeared in footage of North Korea’s National Day celebrations earlier in 2022.
Kim Ju Ae’s existence was only revealed after former professional basketball player Dennis Rodman made a controversial trip to the country in 2013. Rodman told the Guardian Kim was a ‘good dad’ to his baby daughter, who he named as Kim Ju Ae.
‘The Marshal Kim and I had a relaxing time by the sea with his family,’ he said of the visit.
‘We shared many meals and drinks where we discussed our plans to play a historic friendship basketball game between North Korea and the US as well as ways to develop their basketball team.’
Rodman became good friends with the North Korean leader, even claiming to have gifted him a copy of Donald Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal’ for his birthday in 2017.
He was the first to name their daughter after returning from a visit.
‘I held their baby Ju-ae and spoke with Ms Ri [Sol-Ju, Kim’s wife] as well. He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family. Kim told me, “I’ll see you in December.”‘
Michael Madden said her appearances in the public spotlight indicate she ‘will be educated and trained to go into leadership’.
‘It could be preparing for her to assume the central leader’s position, or she could become an adviser and behind-the-scenes player like her aunt,’ he said.
Kim Jong Il and his daughter attend a military parade on February 8, 2023
The pair are seen in double-breasted jackets at a parade in Pyongyang on September 8, 2023
Father and daughter enjoy a sports event at a birthday celebration for late leader Kim Il Sung on April 17, 2023
Kim Jong Un and Kim Ju Ae witness a missile test in Pyongyang together in November 2022
The North Korean regime has never confirmed who would assume the tyrannical leadership of the country if Kim Jong Un were incapacitated.
But the similarity of outfits, experts say, goes a way to explaining their relationship and speculative plans for the future.
‘As there is now intense speculation that Kim Ju Ae is being primed to be her father’s heir apparent, then being presented in public in similar attire could be used to cultivate an image of stability and strength, both domestically and internationally,’ said Ms Lowe.
‘Dressing his daughter in a similar style enables Kim Jong Un to emblematically evidence the confidence he has in her as a future equal and a visual representation of her commitment to the duties and responsibilities of a future leader.’