On Saturday, reports claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is dead, leading many to wonder what is next for the totalitarian nation. Kim was just 36 years old, and details on his family and marital status are difficult to come by — especially outside of North Korea. Many are now trying to determine if Kim has children who might take over for him as his country's leader.
On Friday, a Japanese magazine called Shukan Gendai reported that Kim was in a "vegetative state" following a botched heart surgery on April 12. However, on Saturday, conflicting reports began to emerge saying that Kim had passed away. According to The International Business Times, the Hong Kong Satellite Television network (HKSTV) is now reporting in China and Taiwan that Kim is dead. All of this has the future of North Korea up in the air, as pundits wonder whether a member of Kim's family such as a child or his sister, Kim Yo-jong will take his place.
Little is known about Kim's personal life outside of North Korea, and the few details we have are steeped in mystery and speculation. On July 25, 2012, the North Korean state-run media outlet, KCNA reported that Kim was married to Ri Sol-ju. According to a report by the BBC at the time, Ri was believed to be in her early 20s at the time, and had been seen at public functions with Kim for at least a few weeks prior to their marriage announcement.
So far, no international releases have shown Kim or Ri with any children in public, however, another report by the BBC claims that they have one daughter. A South Korean analyst told reporters at the time that the couple married in 2009, and that Ri gave birth to their child in 2010.
Perhaps the most convincing report of Kim's child came from NBA star Dennis Rodman after he visited North Korea in 2013. The athlete spoke highly of Kim, and according to a report by The Guardian, said that his baby daughter was named Ju-ae.
"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,'" Rodman said at the time.
Assuming Kim does have a daughter, there is no telling whether the nation would allow her to take any official role in the government at such a young age, or whether leadership would be reserved for her until she grows up. In the mean time, many are speculating that Kim's sister, Kim Yo-jong will be his real replacement, as she has often accompanied him to public events and played an important role in his public image. Either way, this means that North Korea would get its first first ruler.
All of this depends on the reports that Kim has truly passed away, which are officially still unconfirmed. An article by The New York Post cites a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party member, who claimed that Kim passed away during a heart surgery meant to implant him with a stent. They said that the surgeon operating on Kim could not stop their hands from shaking. So far, KCNA has not responded to these growing reports.