North Korea’s young, reclusive dictator Kim Jong Un is married to mystery woman Ri Sol Ju, according to state news, who casually announced the marriage on Wednesday.
CNN reports that North Korea’s supreme leader married the 23-year-old Ri Sol Ju in 2009, according to a South Korean lawmaker on Thursday. The curiosity over Kim’s mystery woman, who was photographed with him a few weeks ago while attending official events by the young dictator’s side.
Initially, reports were wondering if the unidentified mystery woman was Kim Jong Un’s sister, or if she was, perhaps, a former pop star lover. While Ri Sol Ju’s name was announced on Wednesday, details about her sill remain a mystery, which doesn’t come as a surprise for one of the most secretive countries in the world.
Jung Chung-Rai, a South Korean lawmaker from Democratic United Party, stated that:
“Ri attended Geumsung’s Second Middle School before going to China to study singing. She previously visited South Korea as a member of North Korea’s cheering squad for Asian Athletics Championships in 2005.”
Some Korean media have reported that the couple has a three-year-old child, although that report has not been confirmed. CBS News notes that, until a year ago, North Korea had no idea that Kim Jong Un existed, and now their new supreme leader is married to a former singer.
The introduction took many by surprise, including U.S. officials. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated with a faint smile that:
“We’ve obviously seen the reports. We would always wish any kind of newlyweds well.”
Michael Auslin, a North Korea analyst, poses a question that many have been wondering: what does this public marriage signify in a nation that is so used to keeping its first ladies in the shadows? Auslin jested that:
“He might have had a marriage to another political figure’s daughter, but instead he went with a singer. So you have to ask the question, was it a love match?”
While a State Department official says that the new image being portrayed by Kim Jong Un, with his marriage to Ri Sol Ju, as well as a recent reshuffling within the military, could be simply another way to cement control over the impoverished nation.
Auslin also cautions to those who think the fresh image and changes could mean a change of policy in the isolated nation. The North Korean analyst states, “If we’re looking for a ‘Pyongyang Spring,’ I think we’ll be disappointed.”
While the announcement of Kim’s marriage to Ri Sol Ju shows that the North Korean supreme leader may be more media-savvy than his father, his new style could simply be a mask for the same old policies.