(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korean state media ended weeks of speculation on Wednesday, announcing that the mystery woman who has accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on recent public events is his wife.
Referring to her as Ri Sol Ju, the station reported on the couple’s visit to Neung Ra People’s Resort during the 8 p.m. broadcast, identifying Ri by name for the first time, and identifying her as “wife” four times during the news report.
“As welcome news played, our Marshal Kim Jong Un and his wife comrade Ri Sol Ju came to the inauguration,” the announcer read.
Ri, wearing a black skirt with a burgundy jacket in black heels, was shown walking alongside Kim at the resort followed by Kim’s uncle Jang Song-Taek, known to be the power behind the new leader. In another scene, she was seen sitting on the right side of Kim while being briefed by officials.
Ri, a short-haired woman who appears to be in her 20s or early 30s, made her first public appearance with Kim on July 5, wearing a yellow polka dot dress and white jacket, during a concert in Pyongyang.
Since then, she’s been seen walking next to the new leader on a visit to the mausoleum of his father and late leader Kim Il Sung. On Tuesday, state television aired photos of the woman standing next to Kim during a visit to a kindergarten. She was seen smiling, as Kim hugged and talked to children, with officials standing behind the couple.
Kim took over as leader of the North Korean regime in December following the death of his father, but like so many aspects of the reclusive country, little is known about the leader. State media did not provide specifics on when the couple had married.
Just last week, Kim was elevated to the top of the military rank as “marshall,” a title held by both his late father and grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sun. Since taking power, Kim has tried to be alter the country’s austere and militaristic image. At his inauguration, Jong Un proclaimed a new powerful nation in which people will be fed properly, hinting that he will focus on economic welfare.
The new leader, believed to be in his late twenties and educated in Switzerland, has ordered comparatively liberal policies such as allowing women to wear pants at public events and encouraging foreign restaurants to be opened.
He was seen earlier this year visiting a fastfood restaurant and commenting on the package design of hamburgers.
At the July 5 concert which showcased girl groups dressed in mini-skirts and tube top dresses, a surprise to the outside world given North Korea’s past history of conservatism in women’s wardrobes on state TV, Kim was spotted raising a thumb at the group singing a melody from an American movie Rocky.
The concert also featured Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh dancing on stage.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Schams Elwazer, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tim Hume, CNN