Kim Jong-un with his daughter at the military parade. Published in the Rodong Sinmun on February 9.

The North Korean regime conducted a military parade to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army during the evening hours of February 8. Kim Jong-un was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol-ju, and his daughter (who the South Korean government believes is called “Ju-ae”). ASIAPRESS conducted an interview with a woman living in the northern part of the country soon after she had viewed the military parade on TV. (KANG Ji-won / ISHIMARU Jiro)

◆ Why is N. Korea holding a military parade when it can’t even feed its own people?

―― North Korea held a major military parade recently. What did you feel when you saw it?

Our lives are difficult and even if we have nuclear weapons and missiles, the most urgent thing we need is rice. It’s hard to survive, so people’s focus is on government rations; in other words, state-run stores.

※ State-run stores began selling food at prices cheaper than food found in local markets after the start of the pandemic. They have far from enough in stock to feed consumers, but ordinary people welcome them nonetheless because they lack money to buy food from markets.

―― What was the response to the military parade from people around you?

There were people who asked why (the government) is holding a military parade when all everyone is worried about is how they’ll survive this year.

◆ What did you think about KJU’s daughter, “Ju-ae?”

―― Kim Jong-un brought his daughter, “Ju-ae,” with him to the military parade. What were your thoughts about this?

There was a lot of interest toward Kim Ju-ae when she accompanied her father (back in November), but nobody showed much interest toward her this time.

―― Kim Jong-un treated her with a lot of affection.

There were people who said they thought that Kim Jong-un was trying to show that he was the same as everyone else in showing affection to his child.

◆ Is Ju-ae KJU’s successor? That can’t be, can it?

―― Some observers believe that Ju-ae appeared at the military parade in preparation for her to become her father’s successor. What do you think about that?

Her? That can’t be, can it? She’s a woman, so how could she become (a ruler of the country)? I don’t believe that anyone thinks that Ju-ae can become the fourth generation of leadership of the country. I’ve heard rumors that she’s a genius in the fields of physics and chemistry and that she is serving as an advisor to her father. I don’t know (if the rumors) are true. The authorities cracked down a lot on all the rumors that spread about Ju-ae.

―― North Koreans don’t think that Ju-ae can become her father’s successor, then?

Right now, people don’t even have enough to eat, so it’s not clear whether how many of them will survive to see Ju-ae become her father’s successor. There’s a lot of people suffering from illnesses, and many people are dying from malnutrition. The authorities conduct autopsies on people who die, but never say in the autopsies that someone has died of starvation. They just issue documents saying that everyone has died of illnesses.

In a February 10 article, Radio Free Asia (RFA) claimed that the authorities are forcing women with the name Ju-ae to change their names. The woman interviewed by ASIAPRESS for this article says that she “never heard about that government order and that it doesn’t exist, as far as I know.”

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea