North Korean leader’s wife appears for first time in two months after ‘home detention’
- Ri Sol-ju appeared to have been kept inside after looking too carefree
- She and her husband Kim Jong-un were seen at the football and musical concert
The young wife of the leader of North Korea has appeared in public for the first time in two months, ending a period of “home detention” for being too carefree.
Earlier this year, Ri Sol-ju was photographed laughing casually while accompanying her husband Kim Jong-un, the newly appointed leader of the secret Stalinist state.
But then she disappeared from view, sparking speculation that she might be pregnant, but more likely because she didn’t present the stern image propagated by her husband’s late father, Kim Jong-il.
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The happy couple: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walks arm-in-arm with his wife Ri Sol-ju in July, before being absent for two months
Analysts say that despite the appointment of young Kim as commander in chief of the nation, he is still under the control of the military hierarchy that ensures that he paints a rigid, authoritative image to the rest of the world.
That means his wife must remain aloof and untouchable in the eyes of the masses, North Korean experts say.
But now Ri is back in the public eye, and blurry TV footage from North Korea shows her enjoying her husband’s company at a soccer game and music concert this week.
According to the official KCNA news agency, the couple’s performance at the concert drew “a thunderous cheer from the audience.”
The pair’s presence was also Kim Jong-un’s first public appearance in two weeks, sparking speculation that he received behavioral advice from the military hierarchy.
Too happy? Analysts think Ri was kept at home because she seemed too ‘carefree’
South Korean intelligence is convinced that Ri’s sudden disappearance from state media since early September is because the country’s elders raised an issue about her casual and cheerful demeanor.
“The analysis has been that there have been concerns about violations of discipline (by Ri) among North Korean elders, plus the speculation about pregnancy,” the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported, citing the National Intelligence Service as providing a briefing behind closed doors to parliament.
Photos taken during the concert showed Ri in a long cream coat and what appeared to be a thicker waist, reinforcing speculation that she is pregnant.
It was also suggested that she had been kept at home as a disciplinary measure for being seen in public without a red lapel pin bearing the image or images of the two previous leaders.
All senior North Koreans and anyone who works for the government must wear them.
Dress to impress: High-ranking North Koreans must wear the red lapel pins as pictured above
A pin is not visible in the latest photos of Ri, but she may be wearing it under her jacket.
If Ri is pregnant and she gives birth to a son, the Kim dynasty is assured.
If she has a girl, analysts say the hierarchy will insist that she “try again.”
The South Koreans have carefully studied photos of Kim and his wife, which have been published over four pages in the North American newspaper Rodong Sinmun. Facial expressions and the people accompanying the couple are all vital to intelligence gatherers.
Last July, North Korea finally put an end to speculation about the young woman who accompanied Kim at numerous events in and around the capital Pyongyang.
According to state media, she was his wife — and those announcements were seen as a slight lifting of the veil of mysterious happenings in the country.
But just when it looked like North Korea was lighting up its hard-hitting, reclusive image, the temporary disappearance of Ri has left analysts questioning whether anything has really changed there.
Monuments: Kim Jong-un delivers a speech at a ceremony to unveil statues of his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his father Kim Jong-il (below)
Video: North Korean TV video of appearances by leader Kim Jong-un .’s wife