News / Asia

North Korea: Kim Jong Un's Mystery Companion Is Wife

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a woman being identified by state TV as his wife 'Comrade Ri Sol Chu,' visit the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, which is nearing completion, in Pyongyang, July 25, 2012.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a woman being identified by state TV as his wife 'Comrade Ri Sol Chu,' visit the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, which is nearing completion, in Pyongyang, July 25, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA NewsMichael Lipin
North Korea has confirmed its leader Kim Jong Un is married, ending weeks of speculation about the identity of a woman who has accompanied him to recent public events. 

Listen to VOA's Steve Herman in Seoul
Listen to VOA's Steve Herman in Seoul i
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

State media reported that Mr. Kim and "Comrade Ri Sol Ju" toured a newly-built amusement park Wednesday in Pyongyang.  It was the first time North Korean media referred to the leader's wife and provided her name.  But the reports did not say when the two were married or provide other details. 
 
Mr. Kim took over the leadership of the reclusive state from his father Kim Jong Il, who died in December.  The introduction of North Korea's first lady is the latest in a series of moves that break with the late Kim's secretive and dour leadership style.  Kim Jong Un also has spoken in public and chatted informally with troops and other citizens. 

Image boosting

VOA Seoul correspondent Steve Herman says analysts believe North Korea's new leader is trying to prove himself.  "Because Kim Jong Un is so young - he's believed to be 29 years old - by showing him as a married man, so to speak, that shows that he is mature and this is very important in Korean culture.  So this would help bolster his image as a leader. And he does not carry that personal baggage of his father, who apparently had a number of different wives and lovers over many years," he said. 
 
Photo released on July 9, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju during a musical performance in Pyongyang. (KCNA)Photo released on July 9, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju during a musical performance in Pyongyang. (KCNA)
x
Photo released on July 9, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju during a musical performance in Pyongyang. (KCNA)
Photo released on July 9, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju during a musical performance in Pyongyang. (KCNA)
U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Washington remains concerned about the plight of North Korea's impoverished population. 
 
"We would always wish any kind of newlyweds well as they embark [on their life together].  But obviously, our concerns first and foremost are for the North Korean people and our hope that conditions for them will improve and that the new DPRK leadership will make the right choice about opening (up) the country and providing more for their people," she said. 
 
Another sign of Mr. Kim developing his own image is last week's announcement he has taken the title of Marshal, the country's top military rank. 
 
Herman said South Korea pays close attention to revelations about Pyongyang's leadership because the two neighbors have remained technically in a state of conflict since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
 
"Anything that happens with the North Korean leadership is very big news here because of the number of rockets and artillery that are pointed at Seoul from North Korea and the fact that North Korea is believed to be developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and has the world's fourth largest army, which would be used against South Korea if there were to be a new conflict," Herman said. 
 
"So, anything about Kim Jong Un's personal life is going to be of tremendous interest in South Korea."
 
A report released Wednesday by the International Crisis Group said there are no clear signs of a conspiracy to overthrow Mr. Kim, despite his surprise removal of a top military leader earlier this month.  ICG senior analyst Daniel Pinkston told VOA that Mr. Kim has a "firm grip" on power and is unlikely to make any significant policy changes.
 
The report said Pyongyang could test long-range missiles or a nuclear bomb in an effort to bolster Mr. Kim's credentials. 

Watch related video
Related video of Kim Jong Un, wifei
|| 0:00:00
X
July 25, 2012
Related video of Kim Jong Un, wife

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
July 25, 2012 10:17 PM
North Korea now sending out to the world their beautiful loving pictures intead of failed missle tests, A bomb facility, smoking guns, shelling cannons.......


by: Anonymous
July 25, 2012 1:21 PM
Nice looking young couple. May fresh ideas from the young people change N.Korea to a better place to live.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid