Ri Sol Ju, Kim Jong Un’s Wife: Who Is North Korea’s Leader Married To?

Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol Ju appear at an event.
Korea Summit Press Pool / Getty Images

Kim Jong Un’s wife is Ri Sol Ju.

The North Korean first lady has been in the spotlight after the country’s leader reportedly died following surgery this week. While the North Korean government has yet to confirm the reports of Kim’s death, there has already been interest in what comes next for the country as there is no clear or public succession plan, but attention has already turned to Kim’s wife and family.


Little Is Known About Ri Sol Ju

Much like her husband, Ri Sol Ju has an intensely guarded private life thanks in large part to North Korea’s tight control over its state media. As Business Insider reported, Ri’s exact age is not known, though South Korean intelligence reports claimed she is around 30. The Sun noted that her exact age remains in dispute, with some reports putting her as old as 35.

Ri had been seen with Kim several times in public before the North Korean government confirmed in 2012 that the two were married — three years after their reported wedding. There was little fanfare to the announcement, the report noted, with the North Korean government introducing her as Kim’s wife at the opening of an amusement park.

“While a welcoming song was resonating, Marshal Kim Jong Un appeared at the ceremony site, with his wife, Comrade Ri Sol Ju,” a state media report on the event noted in what was believed to be the first reference to Ri as Kim’s wife.

It is believed that Ri comes from the upper society in North Korea, the daughter of wealthy parents who could afford to send her to school in China.

“She was reportedly born into an elite family — her father was a professor and her mother a doctor — but little else is known about her life, or how she ultimately became the wife of the world’s most notorious living dictator,” the Business Insider report noted.

The Sun report added that Ri is believed to have studied singing in China and was a member of a North Korean cheerleading team that competed in the 2005 Asian Athletics Championship in South Korea. It was not clear how she and Kim met or exactly when they began their courtship.

Ri was also featured in a documentary created by the North Korean government about Kim’s rule, including a scene in which both were seen riding horses.


Ri Was Seen At Some International Meetings

The leaders of North and South Korea and their wives meet a summit.
  Pyeongyang Press Corps / Getty Images

Though Ri has mostly been out of the spotlight, she has been seen at some of North Korea’s most important international meetings in recent years. She was by the North Korean leader’s side during a historic meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Since these appearances, North Korean state media began referring to Ri as “First Lady” rather than her initial title of “Comrade.” Despite taking on some international stature as Kim led efforts to strengthen relations with both South Korea and the United States, it does not appear that Ri would play any major role in the country’s government after her husband’s reported death.

As Quartz reported, it is believed that one of Kim’s relatives would assume the country’s top leadership position, following the tradition started with Kim Jong Un’s grandfather. Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, said there is a greater than 90 percent chance that his sister, Kim Yo Jong, would take over as leader since the country is run as a dynasty and she has “royal blood.”

Like Ri, Kim Yo Jung had begun accompanying Kim Jong Un on some high-profile diplomatic meetings in recent years. However, it has been noted that Ri did not attend the summit with American President Donald Trump. Instead, it was Kim Yo Jong who joined her brother, acting as “his right hand,” according to Business Insider.