North Korea calls itself a ‘Democratic People’s Republic’. Quite remarkable, since they have been ruled by a dynasty of three generations of Kims since the nation was founded. The Kim dynasty is more easily comparable to a medieval monarchy. After all, the power the Kims wield is far more absolute than most modern royal houses and you can’t exactly vote them out. The degree to which they are idolized is perhaps even comparable to Roman emperors, who gave themselves a god-like status.
But there is a difference between a ‘normal’ royal family and the Kims. In most royal families, the heir is either the oldest child or the oldest son of the current king or queen. This is decreed by the law and a monarch cannot pass over his or her older child to favour a younger one who might be more suitable for the role or willing to take it on.
In the Kim dynasty however, this is not the case. The current leader, Kim Jong Un, was not the oldest son. He was the chosen one after his elder brother fell from grace and was later assassinated. Kim Jong Il, his father, believed Kim Jong Un had what it took to be a ruthless dictator. His brother was too soft.
History is repeated, with Kim Jong Un now bringing his second child, a daughter called Kim Ju Ae, into the spotlight. After having watched a rocket launch with her dad in November, she recently accompanied her father and mother to a banquet to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army. Ju Ae is presumably nine years old and has an older brother, but he is nowhere to be seen.
Kim Jong Un does have a sister who sometimes represents him and seems to have a very high status in the country. Still, the Korean culture is deeply patriarchal and selecting a younger girl as a successor over her older brother is remarkable. He must have great confidence in her abilities to bring her into the public eye at such a young age. She would be North Korea’s first female leader ever.
There will be much speculation about her and the reasons for bringing her into the public eye at this time, but as Christians we have one more reason to pray. This girl is selected to become the bearer of a grim legacy of human rights abuses and religious oppression, starting from her great-grandfather. She is expected to carry that legacy further. One day she will be given divine status and be worshipped alongside her father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Will she ever have a chance to hear the gospel? To become a daughter of the King of Kings? To learn to love her people instead of keeping them trapped in fear?
Let’s pray little Kim Ju Ae will not follow in the footsteps of her father, but in the footsteps of Jesus.