Public perception is that almost every piece of information that emerges from the Korean North concerning its government is either a half-truth or a complete lie. The rest is shrouded in secrecy. The same can be said of all the information available about the North Korean leader’s wife Ri Sol-Ju.
For a long time, many sources outside North Korea have tried to get information on the mysterious first woman. In fact, a lot of the information available comes from foreign media and not from official North Korean sources.
The only times Ri Sol-Ju has been seen in public is beside her husband. It is not known if she plays any direct or indirect role in Kim Jong-Un’s administration.
Ri Sol-Ju Biography
Information about the supreme leader’s wife has successfully been kept under wraps since her relationship to the administration was made public. There is almost nothing verifiable about her life before her marriage to Kim Jong-Un.
Even Ri’s age is in doubt, as her date of birth has been reported to be between 1985 and 1989. Her father is reportedly a professor and her mother reportedly heads a gynecology ward. She is said to have had her middle school education at Pyongyang’s Geumsung 2 Middle School after which she moved to China to major in vocal music. The first lady is also reportedly related to a close adviser of her husband, a former air force general, Ri Pyong-Chol.
At one time, she was misidentified as a singer in the North Korean musical group, Unhasu Orchestra. Commentators have said that North Korean officials are making every effort to disappear every trace of Sol-Ju’s past as an entertainer by confiscating every possible recording of her performances. Ri has also been said to be pursuing a Ph.D. in science at Kim Il-Sung University.
More reports from her past reveal that she was also a cheerleader back in 2005, and was part of the cheerleading team at the Asian Athletics Championships in South Korea in the same year.
Even though Sol-Ju and Kim Jong-Un might have been married some years earlier, Sol-ju made her first public appearance in 2012. She was standing next to Kim Jong-Un. This caused speculation among the media and the people about her identity. Intelligence officials from South Korea misidentified her as North Korean singer Hyon Song-Wol, who was a former member of a popular North Korean singing group Electronic Ensemble. In July 2012, North Korean state media released a statement officially identifying the mystery woman as Comrade Ri Sol-Ju, the wife of the leader of North Korea.
In the same month, Sol-Ju did receive some muted criticism for the way she appeared in public. She wore a Chanel-inspired trim black suit at an elite gala concert. This was considered unconventional and against the traditional dress code of a North Korean woman.
As to Ri’s personality, the best information available comes from Kenji Fujimoto, the former personal sushi chef to North Korea’s former leader, Kim Jong-Il. Fujimoto describes her as very soft-spoken and charming. He reportedly gifted her with a Christian Dior handbag.
Facts To Know About Kim Jong-Un’s Wife
1. She disappeared from the public after 2014
Until 2014, Ri Sol-ju performed her duties and appeared by her husband at galas, conferences, and other public events, all of which were captured by the North Korean media. However, starting in 2015, she occasionally went for long periods without being seen. This trend continued through 2016 and 2017. She was seen again on video on March 28, 2018. Apparently, she accompanied her husband to China, where they met Chinese President Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan.
2. Her official title was changed to reflect her growing status
About a month after the first couple’s visit to China, Sol-Ju’s title was changed from “Comrade” to “Respected First Lady”. It is unknown what sparked the change, but what is known is that this was good for her image. The title had not been used since 1974 when it was bestowed on Kim Song-ae, the second wife of the former North Korean leader, Kim Il-Sung.
3. Ri Sol-Ju has an elegant sense of style
Her first outing as “Respected First Lady” happened on April 27, 2018, when she and her husband attended the 2018 inter-Korean summit, along with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and his wife, Kim Jung-Sook.
Her outfit on the day was also heralded by many media sources, internal and foreign, with many calling her a style icon for North Korea. She was dressed in a vintage style pale coral dress and matching jacket reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy’s outfits in the 60s.
4. Ri Sol-Ju may not be her real name
Such is the doubt and uncertainty about the information on the first lady; some analysts believe that her name is a pseudonym. Other speculations from different sources continue to emerge, none of which has been corroborated by any official North Korean channels.
5. It’s rumored she has three children with Kim Jong-Un
There are rumors that Ri Sol-Ju has given birth to three children, all of whom came between 2010 and 2017. The first speculation was of a son born in 2010. In December 2012, rumors spread that the first lady was seen in public and that she was heavily pregnant.
Although North Korean officials kept mum about the situation, the story was given more credibility when former NBA star Dennis Rodman visited the first family in March 2013. On his return, he let it slip to the British tabloid, The Sun that Sol-Ju had birthed a healthy daughter. The former basketballer corroborated in an interview with The Guardian, where he said that the child’s name is Ju-ae. He went on to say that the North Korean leader was a good dad and that he had a beautiful family.
South Korean intelligence sources reported again in February 2017 that the North Korean first lady had birthed her third child. They admitted that the child’s gender is unknown.