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The wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has appeared in state media reports following
a four-month absence from public view. Ri Sol-ju was seen in photos released on Wednesday
accompanying Kim on his "field guidance" trip to the Mount Kumgang resort on the country's
scenic east coast. It was her first reported public activity since June, though her name
was not mentioned among those who followed Kim on his trip to the mountain. She was last
seen in public when Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first visit to Pyongyang on June
20 and 21. After that, she disappeared from state media reports for more than 120 days,
with Kim making public appearances without her. This week Korea Now will look into North
Korea's first lady Ri Sol-ju and other cases of her absence from public view in the past.
Very little information about Ri Sol-ju have appeared in official North Korean sources,
but more speculative information have been reported in foreign media. She was reportedly
born into an elite family in 1989. She is said to have graduated from Geumsung Second
Middle School in Pyongyang and studied abroad in China majoring in vocal music. Yonhap News
Agency has identified Ri as a singer in the Unhasu Orchestra. She also visited South Korea
in 2005, as a member of the North Korean cheerleading team during the Asian athletics competition
held in Incheon in September of that year. Ri is said to have married Kim Jong-un in
2009 and to have given birth to her first and second children in 2010 and 2013. In 2012,
Ri made several public appearances standing next to Kim Jong-un, causing speculation about
who she might be. Finally, on July 25th that year, North Korean state media announced that
she was Kim's wife, saying she was “his wife, comrade Ri Sol-ju.”
In 2018, Ri started to take on a diplomatic role and her title was elevated to “respected
First Lady” instead of just “comrade,” ahead of the series of Kim's summits. In
March last year, she visited China with her husband, meeting Chinese President Xi and
his wife. In April of that year, Ri attended the historic Panmunjom inter-Korean summit,
the first wife of a North Korean leader to do so, and met the First Lady of South Korea,
Kim Jung-sook, for the first time. They met again at the Pyongyang inter-Korean summit
in September and went up to the top of Mount Paekdu with their husbands. The two first
ladies were observed as being close to each other through their meetings last year.
Meanwhile, it is not the first time that Ri has disappeared from public view. From 2012
to 2015, Ri appeared occasionally in the North Korean media, accompanying her husband to
events, but subsequently she was rarely seen. In 2016, she was not seen in public for about
nine months, spawning speculation that she might be pregnant or have given birth. In
fact, Seoul's spy agency said in August 2017 that Ri appears to have given birth to her
third child of unknown gender in February of that year.
This year, however, Ri already made six public appearances up until June, including a visit
to Beijing from January 1-10 accompanying Kim. She also joined Kim in attending a performance
marking the 71st anniversary of the North's armed forces in February and visited a fish
farm in April. Therefore, Ri's relatively long disappearance from state media reports
was considered unusual. Since state media began referring to her as “first lady”
last year, instead of “comrade”, she was usually mentioned in media reports at least
once a month. During her absence, Kim's younger sister,
Kim Yo-jong accompanied the leader in an event on July's anniversary of the death of their
grandfather and founding leader Kim Il-sung, as well as other key events like riding white
horses to visit Mount Paektu on the 16th this month. Therefore, some say that Kim Yo-jong
appears to be filling in for Ri Sol-ju. What are your thoughts on this? Please let me know
in the comments below and thank you for watching Korea Now.


How much do you know Ri Sol-ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un?

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Seina 發佈於 2020 年 7 月 13 日
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