The 33-year-old, who on Sunday oversaw the country’s largest ever nuclear test explosion, is notoriously discreet about his private life and has rarely made public reference to any children he has with wife Ri Sol Ju.
Indeed confirmation that the couple had any at all first came in 2013 when former basketball star Dennis Rodman became an unlikely guest of the Communist leader and revealed his host had a “beautiful baby daughter.”
Since then, Kim Byung-kee of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party has told CNN he has learned from sources that the couple have a son born in 2010, and confirmation of a daughter, born in 2013.
And last week it was officially revealed Kim had become a father for the third time in February to another baby girl. Opposition member Yi Wan-yong said the news was publicly released “because this implies she [his wife Ri Sol Ju] remains an influential figure in North Korea.”
The first child’s gender is significant as it makes him a male heir for the patriarchal bloodline. As the Sunday Times remarks: “For a ruling family whose reign of terror is based on totalitarian tenets of slavish loyalty and subjugation, the producing of a son is crucial.”
The Kim dynasty is officially called the Mount Paektu Bloodline and is a three-generation lineage of North Korean leadership, descending from the country’s first leader Kim Il Sung in 1948. The narrative seeks to prove the Kims are the only governing possibility in North Korea.
The Paektu bloodline is named after a desolate volcano on the North Korean-China border, its image emblazoned on the country’s national emblem and lending its name to everything from rockets to power stations. As early as 2009, North Korea called Kim Jong Un “the General of Paektu.”
Kim Il Sung saved the Korean Peninsula, according to the official Pyongyang narrative, with daring guerrilla raids against Japanese invaders from his base on the slopes of Paektu.
Earlier this year, Kim’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam was assassinated in a Malaysian airport, with many North Korea watchers speculating the killing was carried out on behalf of Kim to eradicate any complications the errant bloodline could create.
“Kim Jong Un might have thought that he had nearly completed his consolidation of power and that taking out Kim Jong Nam would be a finishing touch to eliminate a potential source of trouble,” Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, told the Associated Press in February.
“Kim Jong Nam was a potential threat,” according to analyst Chang Yong Seok at Seoul National University. “Kim Jong Un might have believed that opponents could push to (oust him) and enthrone Kim Jong Nam.”
Kim Jong Un has another older brother, Kim Jong Chol, who’s seen as a huge fan of rock guitarist Eric Clapton. The middle of the three known sons, he was once considered by some outsiders as a potential candidate for leader, but a former sushi chef of Kim Jong Il said the late leader derided him as “girlish.” South Korean media report he is in Pyongyang but shuns public activities.