Kim Jong-un

TV pictures spark rumours wife of Kim Jong-un is heavily pregnant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 8:39am

North Korea may soon witness the birth of the fourth generation of its hereditary dictatorship as television pictures showed that the wife of the country's leader appeared to be heavily pregnant.

North Korean state television showed Kim Jong-un and his wife paying homage yesterday at a national memorial service for Kim's father, former leader Kim Jong-il, who died a year ago.

The visibly swollen belly of Ri Sol-ju, was swiftly picked up by the South Korean media.

"Ri appeared to be in the late stages of pregnancy," Yonhap news agency said, while the Chosun newspaper predicted that birth "was not far away".

It was not possible to verify that she was pregnant and there was no official announcement by North Korean media.

According to intelligence reports cited by the South Korean media, the couple were married in 2009 and already have one child, although that has never been confirmed.

Rumours started to circulate when she suddenly dropped from public view in September, only to reappear a month later wearing a long coat in photos that hinted at a possible pregnancy.

To mark the anniversary of his death, Pyongyang unveiled the embalmed body of Kim Jong-il yesterday, still in his trademark khaki jumpsuit.

Kim lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il-sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace.

Wails echoed through the chilly hall as a group of women sobbed into the sashes of their traditional Korean dresses as they bowed before his body.

North Korea also unveiled Kim's yacht and his armoured train carriage, where he is said to have died of a heart attack from overwork on December 17 last year.

The mourning was mixed with pride over last week's satellite launch, which sparked international condemnation from states that believe it is trying to develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could hit the United States.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press