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Home » Is your name Ju Ae? You have to change it to something else

Is your name Ju Ae? You have to change it to something else

by Meang Chanvatey
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North Korean authorities force anyone sharing name with Kim Jong Un’s daughter to pick new one

The parents of 12-year-old Ju Ae were summoned to the local government office and confronted with a shocking order: Change your daughter’s name.

Unfortunately, she shares the same given name as Kim Jong Un’s daughter, Kim Ju Ae – and in North Korea that’s now forbidden, sources in the country tell Radio Free Asia.

In recent months, state media has been shining a spotlight on Kim Ju Ae as she accompanies her father at important events, fueling speculation that she could be next in line to lead the country – or that she is part of an effort to cast her father as an approachable family man. 

Ironically, her name has not yet been officially revealed to the public. Instead state media refer to her as the “Noble Child,” “Respected Child” or “Beloved Daughter.” 

Sources in North Korea told Radio Free Asia that the government is now forcing everyone named Ju Ae to change it to something else, all but confirming that Ju Ae is the name of Kim Jong Un’s daughter, and that she will likely have an important role to play either as a politician, a propaganda tool, or both.

That’s why officials called in the parents of a 12-year-old Ju Ae in the northwestern city of Chongju on Feb. 8 – along with every other Ju Ae in the area – to choose new names and update their birth certificates, a source who lives in her neighborhood told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.    

“The social security official said that the reason why the authorities are investigating individuals named ‘Ju Ae’ and forcing them to change their names is because the name of the daughter touted as the ‘Noble Child of the Highest Dignity’ is Ju Ae,” the source said, using an honorific term to refer to Kim Jong Un. “An order has been issued to get rid of anyone with the same name.”

Past pattern

Forcing people to change their names because they share it with a member of the ruling family has occurred three other times in North Korea’s history, but each time it was because those names, Il Sung, Jong Il and Jong Un, were the same as a sitting leader.

Neighborhood watch units told residents in South Pyongan province, north of the capital Pyongyang, that all Ju Aes in the province had until the end of the week to change their names, a source there said on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

“Ju Ae, the daughter of the Highest Dignity, has been upgraded to ‘Respected Child’ from ‘Noble [or Beloved] Child,’ the second source said. “The name ‘Ju Ae’ is being controlled so that ordinary citizens cannot use it.”

Residents are complaining about forcing them to change their names as if they meant to slight the country’s leadership when naming their children.

“They ask, ‘Who would have named their daughter ‘Ju Ae’ if we had known that was the name of the daughter of the Highest Dignity?’” the second source said.

Citizens have only become aware of Kim Ju Ae’s name in the months following her first public appearance in November 2022, and government officials began talking about her, the second source said.

Credit: KCNA via Reuters

Authorities have not yet confirmed the name of Kim Jong Un’s daughter. Outside knowledge that she is called Ju Ae comes from former basketball star Dennis Rodman, who visited North Korea in 2013 and met with her father, and from South Korean intelligence. 

Korean names are usually three syllables, one for the surname and two for the given name, and given names are usually formed by choosing two Chinese characters for their meanings. Multiple characters have the same pronunciation in Korean, so it is inevitable that many Koreans will have a given name pronounced the same way. 

Kim is the most common Korean surname. A South Korean census in 2015 determined that more than one-fifth of the country was named Kim. It is therefore very likely that many of the North Korean women and girls ordered to choose new names match Kim Ju Ae exactly.

Though democratic South Korea has never forced any of its citizens to change their names, the Korea Times reported in June 2017 that many South Korean women named Park Geun-hye had applied to change their names to distance themselves from the country’s disgraced president, who was at that time on trial for corruption following her impeachment and removal from office in March of that year.

Source : Radio Free Asia

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