North Korea: Mystery woman is Kim Jong-un’s wife
NORTH Korea’s new young leader, Kim Jong-un, is married, state media has finally disclosed, putting an end to speculation over the relationship with a woman seen at his side during recent events.
The announcement yesterday, which fits a trend the upbeat Mr Kim has followed to break out of the dour style of his late father, Kim Jong-il, came just two weeks after he was seen at a gala performance accompanied by the woman, with rumours swirling as to whether she was his wife, a lover or his sister.
Mr Kim toured an amusement park with his wife, “comrade Ri Sol Ju” on Tuesday, while crowds cheered, state TV said.
No further details have been released, including how long the couple have been married.
While the woman at Mr Kim’s side was not identified until now, media and analysts in South Korea had been quick to guess that she was his wife.
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at think-tank the Sejong Institute, said: “Kim Jong-un’s move appears to give the youth hoping for change, especially young women, a favourable impression of him, although it can make conservative old North Koreans uncomfortable.
“Although Kim Jong-un continues a one-man dictatorship, he is expected to have a more open attitude in culture than in the Kim Jong-il era.”
Some observers in South Korea yesterday speculated she was a singer, Hyon Song-wol, he dated several years ago before his father put a stop to it, but who was now back on the scene.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said she had been a member of a troupe of performance artists and had received etiquette training for about six months before taking on the role of first lady, quoting a source familiar with the state’s inner workings.
Recent TV footage showed the two laughing with each other, touching a child’s hair together and clapping while watching a performance featuring western show tunes and Mickey Mouse.
Mr Kim, in his late 20s, took over the family dynasty last December with the death of his father, whose rule took North Korea deeper into isolation, abject poverty and large-scale political repression.
Since then he has taken a more glitzy approach, at least on the surface, to ruling a country which is locked in a stand-off with the West over its nuclear weapons programme.
Once the official mourning period was over, the new, young leader was seen laughing with elderly generals, gesticulating in delight at a military parade and, in the biggest shock of all, speaking. Most North Koreans had never seen Kim Jong-il speak during their lifetime.
Kim Jong-un has steadily worked to impose his own stamp on the top leadership of North Korea, and last Sunday ousted vice-marshal Ri Yong-ho, the country’s leading military figure, who was seen as close to Kim Jong-il.
Kim Jong-un was named marshal of the army, a move that further cements his power. The title – the top functioning military rank – was held by both his father and grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong-un already heads the Workers’ Party of Korea and is First Chairman of the National Defence Commission.
He is also gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after purging Ri Yong-ho for opposing change, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing said.
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