Ri Sol-ju, wife of Kim Jong-un has reappeared in public after seeming to vanish for nine months – prompting speculation she may have given birth to a male heir.
Ri Sol-ju reappeared – in the full gaze of the public alongside her husband – during an air combat training competition. Local media reported that she appeared comfortable to be at Kim Jong-un’s side as they watched the display by the Korean People’s Air Force and Defense (KPAF).
But there was no comment by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as to the reasons behind her extended absence – or an exact date of when the photo was taken.
According to the South Korean news agency Yonhap News, Ri Sol-ju was last seen on a tour of a new commercial district and health complex in Pyongyang on March 28 of this year.
In May Kim Jong-un hosted the country’s first party congress in 36 years – and his wife was nowhere to be seen.
And over the past 9 months Kim Jong-un has been continuously spotted out and about touring the length and breadth of the country, never with his First Lady.
Ri Sol-ju had curiously also not been mentioned in any state reports over the last nine months.
The wife of Kim Jong-un has not been seen in public for seven months prompting speculation that she is either pregnant or perhaps has fallen out of favor.
Experts monitoring the situation in Pyongyang have suggested Ri Sol-ju, who was introduced as First Lady in 2012, may have fallen out with Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, who is increasingly regarded as the power behind the throne. Kim Yo-jong was put in charge of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation Department last year and is responsible for building up her brother’s cult of personality.
Ri was last seen on a tour of a new commercial district and health complex in Pyongyang on March 28 March of this year, South Korean news agency Yonhap News reported. In contrast Kim Jong-un has frequently been seen touring the country and hosted the country’s first party congress in 36 years in May.
Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University who focuses on the Pyongyang leadership, said: “There are several possible reasons, including that she is pregnant or that there is some sort of problem between the two of them. There have also been reports of instability in Pyongyang and rumors of several attempted attacks, including by factions in the North Korean military, against Kim last year. So it is also possible that Ri has not appeared in public because she is being closely guarded.”
In 2012, Ri disappeared from public view, prompting speculation that she had fallen out of favor or was pregnant. It was later revealed that she gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter, sometime in late 2012.
On the other hand, Kim Jong-un is not above disposing of those closest to him if they fall out of favor. He executed his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, after finding him guilty of treason despite their relationship being reportedly close beforehand. Announcing the execution, Kim Jong-un denounced him as “human scum worse than a dog” for an alleged attempt to introduce reform.
Kim Yeo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, appears to have risen to a position of considerable power in the secretive regime. Yeo-jong now holds a key post in the Workers Party’s department in charge of promotions and appointments. Senior officials like Army politburo chief Hwang Pyong-so now salute her.
Kim Yeo-jong rose quickly through the party ranks and consolidated her position, thanks to her quick wit and natural political acumen. Since September last year, she has been her brother’s de facto secretary, with most documents being submitted for approval by Kim passing through her desk, according to some intelligence sources.
“Rumors began spreading late last year that the fastest way of getting Kim Jong-un’s attention is to go through Kim Yeo-jong,” the source said. “She’s gaining power by controlling the information and deciding who gets to contact him.”
Kim Yeo-jong apparently won the trust of senior officials by consoling them and offering them advice when they were criticized by her brother. The two of them are seen as a classic good cop/bad cop act.
But her political ambitions have apparently led to some jealousy in the family. “When Yeo-jong was on maternity leave in May last year, Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol-ju appointed a close relative of hers, and that frayed their relationship,” another source said.
A source said Kim Yeo-jong’s husband is a university professor in Pyongyang and comes from an ordinary background, denying recent rumors that she is married to the son of senior official Choe Ryong-hae.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju (4th from right), along with members of the Moranbong Band who performed at the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. [Click photo to enlarge]
Kim Jong-Un has continued the celebrations of his ruling Workers’ Party’s 70th anniversary with a concert by North Korea’s most popular girl band – and even posed for pictures surrounded by the young women.
Kim Jong-Un, 32, and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, believed to be in her late 20s, can be seen surrounded by members of the Moranbong Band, an all-female group reportedly the most popular in North Korea.
In another photo, the rotund ‘Dear Leader’, appears to be enjoying himself, as he laughs and enjoys a crafty cigarette while sitting next to his young wife, who wore a pale pink satin jacket and matching skirt.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez watch a performance in Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held talks with Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, marking Kim’s first meeting with a senior foreign leader in more than the two years. He has yet to travel overseas since taking power in late 2011.
Kim said the visit by a Cuban delegation headed by Diaz-Canel is of “weighty significance in instilling the history and tradition of the friendship” between the two countries “into the rising generation,” during the meeting in Pyongyang on Monday, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
Diaz-Canel is the highest ranked official from overseas that Kim has held talks with since he met with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao in July 2013 in Pyongyang.
This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between North Korea and Cuba. The latest meeting shows North Korea’s continued close ties with Cuba, which restored full diplomatic relations with the United States in July after being severed for more than five decades.
Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, also hosted for the delegation a concert by the Moranbong Band, a North Korean all-female music group, and the State Merited Chorus, according to KCNA.
[South China Morning Post]
North Korea’s first lady has appeared in public for the first time this year as part of celebrations marking the birthday of the country’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung. Ri has been out of the spotlight since December for unknown reasons.
A grinning Ri Sol-Ju, wearing what appeared to be a wedding ring on her left hand, was pictured clapping next to her smiling husband Kim Jong-Un during a men’s football match at Kim Il Sung Stadium on Monday, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The images of the couple at a podium flanked by top party officials were published in state media.
The match was being held as part of a lavish series of events celebrating the 103rd birthday of Kim Il-Sung, the young leader’s grandfather, which fell on Wednesday. North Korea designated the “Day of the Sun” as a rare two-day national holiday, with art performances, exhibitions and sporting events, and pilgrimages to the late leader’s birthplace in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol Ju
Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong
One sports a Christian Dior handbag and favors Western clothes. The other carries a notebook and wears dark uniforms. These fashion opposites are the two most influential women in North Korea.
While Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol Ju and younger sister Kim Yo-jong are currently allies in sustaining one of the world’s most reclusive leaders, their overlapping influence makes them potential rivals in a regime where family ties aren’t strong enough to protect against Kim’s penchant for purges.
“Uneasiness is inevitable in a relationship like this,” Kang Myong Do, a son-in-law of North Korea’s former Prime Minister, Kang Song San, said by phone. “The wife wouldn’t like it if her husband got too close to his sister; the sister wouldn’t like it if her brother got too close to his wife.”
Citing conversations with people who have been in the room with both women at the same time, Michael Madden, editor of the North Korea Leadership Watch blog, said the two appeared friendly to each other as they sat at opposite sides – Ri with her husband and Kim with senior party officials.
Kim Jong-un’s wife Ri Sol Ju commands a growing following among the wives of North Korean elite while Kim Yo-jong now holds a senior position in the ruling Workers’ Party and serves as an adviser to her brother.
The purge of Jang Song Thaek may have strengthened the hand of Ri with the North Korean elite looking to avoid a similar fate. There are accounts that the wives of North Korean elite used their ties to Ri to “limit the number of officials removed from office due to the Jang purge,” Madden said.
“What we’ll need to watch for is whether Ri Sol Ju becomes Queen Bee among the wives or if that role is assumed by Yo-jong,” he said in an e-mail. “They are a quiet but politically influential cohort in the North Korean elite.”
In public Ri offers a softer side of the Supreme Leader and has been a regular in North Korean propaganda. In 2005, she traveled to South Korea as a teenage cheerleader for North Korean teams at an athletic competition. Seven years later she was revealed as his wife at an appearance with Kim at an amusement park in July 2012.
Still, so little is known about their relationship that it took former NBA star Dennis Rodman to reveal the couple had a child after a trip to Pyongyang in 2013 to play basketball. Rodman told the Guardian newspaper that he held Kim’s daughter Ju-ae and that Kim is a “good dad and has a beautiful family”.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been out of the public eye for 20 days since attending a concert on Sept. 3 with his wife Ri Sol-ju. (See inset photo.)
The North Korean leader appeared in public 17 times in June, 24 times in July and 16 times in August. But his only public appearance in September was the concert.
This has led to speculation that he is ill. In July he was seen on state TV in July with a slight limp in his right leg and again earlier this month limping on his left leg.
Kim is also getting fatter, leading to rumors that he is suffering from stress and symptoms of heart disease, Free North Korea Radio reported Wednesday. The rumors say Kim has been suffering the symptoms since the execution of his uncle Jang Song-taek and over-eating and drinking heavily.
A South Korean Unification Ministry official warned against jumping to conclusions. “In 2012, Kim Jong-un disappeared from view for 23 days and last year for 17 days,” the official recalled. “Of course it’s possible that there is something wrong …”
A North Korean singer said to be Kim Jong-un’s former girlfriend and reported to have been executed by firing squad last year has appeared on state television. Hyon Song-Wol was shown delivering a speech at a rally of national art workers in the capital Pyongyang on Friday.
The 31-year-old North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and the performer were said to have been teenage lovers but had been forced to break up by Kim Jong-il, Mr Kim’s father and predecessor.
The singer was reported to have been caught up in palace intrigue last summer having incurred the displeasure of Ri Sol-ju, Mr Kim’s wife. (Shown in photo below, sporting a new, shorter haircut.)
Undated photo released by KCNA on May 11, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front C) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (front L) inspecting an Air Force Combat Flight Contest.
In August, Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper with close links to its country’s intelligence services, reported that Hyon and 11 other well-known performers had been caught making a sex tape and executed. The reappearance of Hyon came after months of speculation about whether she was alive.