North Korean leader’s wife re-appears after no-shows
The wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has re-appeared after dropping out of the public eye for 50 days amid fevered rumours that she was either pregnant or had fallen out of favour.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Ri Sol-ju joined her husband at a musical performance and a football match in Pyongyang on Monday.
“Marshall Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the party and the people, came to the spectators’ seats, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju. At that moment, thunderous applause broke out,” KCNA said.
Kim took over the reins of power in North Korea following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, last December.
The fact that he even had a wife was only revealed in July when pictures emerged of a stylish young woman accompanying the new young leader at official events.
A terse statement from Pyongyang’s state television that month confirmed her identity and the fact that the couple were married.
Then in early September, she dropped from public view just as suddenly as she had appeared.
Her absence triggered speculation that she might be pregnant, while some suggested she was doing penance for failing to wear the lapel pin – bearing the image of one or both of the country’s late leaders – that all adult North Koreans are required to wear.
A photo of the couple at Monday’s musical performance showed Ri, wearing a long coat, applauding as Kim saluted the cheering crowd.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency stoked the pregnancy rumours by observing that her mid-section appeared swollen. It was not clear if she was wearing a badge under the coat.
The announcement of Kim Jong-un’s marriage and Ri’s media profile mark a departure for North Korea whose intensely secretive regime has previously kept the private lives of its rulers under wraps.
According to intelligence reports cited by the South Korean media, the couple were married in 2009 and already have one child.
Ri was described as coming from an ordinary family, with her father an academic and her mother a doctor. She visited South Korea in 2005 as a cheerleader for her country’s squad in the Asian Athletics Championships.