Ri Sol Ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been afforded a new title in the country’s state media, a move that analysts say could signal an evolution in the power structure of the reclusive country.
Referred to in a KCNA report as the “respected First Lady,” paired with an honorific reserved for respected members of society, the title is a step up from the usual “comrade” that she had previously been afforded.
“In North Korea, nothing is accidental. Each move is choreographed for a reason,” Troy Stangarone, Senior Director, Korea Economic Institute, told CNN. “The elevation of Ri’s status … helps to strengthen the Kim family’s status in North Korea, but also changes the international perception of the regime.”
The wives of North Korea’s two previous leaders, Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather, have generally not been given the same status as that accorded to other leaders’ spouses around the world, Stangarone said.
Ri’s new title places her “more within Western norms and helps remove some of the old communist vestiges of the past,” Stangarone said.
He added that Kim’s decision to send his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February was another sign that the ruling family is intent on changing the optics around its power structure.