(SEOUL, South Korea) — The father fell in love with a dancer. Now the son has fallen in love with a singer.
The talk of Seoul today is about the 24-year-old ex-singer-turned-first lady of North Korea, Ri Sol-Ju, who was officially mentioned by North Korean TV on Wednesday as the “comrade wife to Marshall Kim Jong Un.”
A new video was aired today of the two walking arm-in-arm, a rare image, which analysts in Seoul say is aimed to make North Korea’s young leader appear “stable and fatherly.”
Kim, 28, rose to power earlier this year after the death of his father Kim Jong Il last December. His father never appeared in public with an official wife, but is known to have had four or five wives. Jong Un was born to Jong Il’s fourth wife, a celebrity dancer named Koh Young-Hee.
The new lady in the spotlight, Ri, is a popular singer who was spotted performing on stage numerous times in the past few years. There is still no confirmation on when they were married, but the two are known to have a child together, according to the National Information Service, South Korea’s intelligence agency.
Ri is from an average family, graduated from Geumsung 2 Middle School in Pyongyang and studied abroad in China majoring in vocal music. She visited South Korea in 2005 as a member of the North Korean cheerleading team for the Asian Athletics Championship held in Incheon, said the agency. Ri was one of the 90 cheerleaders back then who chanted “We are one!”
The cheerleaders wore Nike caps, danced with South Korean college students, and attended a dinner party with government officials. There’s speculation that she also might have participated in an inter-Korean teenagers’ event in 2003 to plant trees.
But what has attracted the most attention in Seoul today is her beauty and sense of fashion. She wore colorful green, burgundy, and yellow outfits, polka dot patterns, open-toe pumps, and even a chic brooch on one of her dresses. North Korean women usually wear their traditional costume, or monotone black or grey suits to public events.
“I was surprised because she was so up-to-date in fashion. My friends think she’s very pretty too,” said Hyun-Sun Kim, 22, a nurse.
“I think Ri Sol Ju possesses a classic traditional Korean beauty, a round face and clean skin,” said Edward Han, 52, a South Korean businessman. “And she’s got that image of an obedient wife which sure would be popular among the elders especially.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN
Michael Pearson, Faith Karimi and Ian Lee, CNN