You may see North Korea’s Kim Jong Un just about everywhere on the news, but there’s someone special in his life who’s usually missing from the limelight: his wife. Ri Sol Ju is the country’s first lady, making her somewhat of a public figure by default. But very little is known about her, as details about her family, her life before marriage, and even her real name have all been hotly debated.
Here’s what we know (or think we know) about Ri Sol Ju, and her ultra-secretive marriage to Kim Jong Un.
Her age and name have never been confirmed
Yes, this is about as strange as it gets. Though North Koreans (and the rest of the world, for that matter) are pretty sure Ri Sol Ju is in her 30s, the New York Post comments that it’s never been confirmed by the regime. This also stands true for her name. Though she’s referred to worldwide as what we’ve said here, there’s suspicion this name may actually be a pseudonym to keep her even more of a mystery to the public.
It was a marriage arranged by Kim Jong Il
Though details about the marriage ceremony are largely unknown, analyst Cheong Seong-Chang told a South Korean newspaper he believes Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju married in 2009, BBC News reports. On top of that, Cheong also believes the marriage was arranged by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il. And he did this in quite a hurry after his stroke in 2008.
There’s a theory she’s actually a singer Kim Jong Un was involved with previously
Let’s go back to before Ri and Kim met — back when Kim was in school and dating a singer named Hyon Song-Wol. The New York Post explains Hyon was not well-liked by Kim’s father, and he made the two cease dating. But there’s further speculation that Ri could actually be Hyon all along, and that she just changed her name so the public would never know.
Here’s where it gets stranger: In 2013, a South Korean newspaper stated Hyon was executed in North Korea by machine gunfire for violating laws on pornography, The Telegraph says. So, what’s the true story? We may never know.
North Korean officials tried to erase her past as a performer
There’s conflicting information about Ri’s past, but Business Insider says she was a singer and performer. In addition to that, the publication also notes North Korean authorities have tried to cover up her pop star past. In 2012, they attempted to destroy all of the CDs and recordings of when she was a member of the Unhasu Orchestra.
Ri’s family may be from the political elite, and she’s highly educated
A few years ago, the Daily Beast reported that Ri was well on her way to receiving her Ph.D. in science. They also said her family was considered to be among the elite, as her father was a professor and her mother lead a gynecological unit at a hospital.
But of course, this conflicts with what the New York Post has said about her being a pop star, or possibly part of a cheerleading squad before she met Kim. Others even posit she was born into an average family.
She is rarely seen in public
Now you see her, now you don’t. This seems to be a popular trick with Ri, as she’ll go months and months without appearing in public. Heavy.com reports her first disappearing act happened in 2012, when people theorized she was either dead, being punished by the regime for her laid-back public demeanor, or pregnant. She came back around a few months later, but continues to escape the public eye from time to time.
It’s believed the couple has three children
Weirdly enough, it’s not common knowledge how many children Kim and Ri have. The Independent says each time Ri disappeared from public view for long periods of time, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service says she gave birth. This means they have three children — one in 2010, 2013, and the end of 2016. And Dennis Rodman, the basketball star who occasionally visits the family, has said the second child is a girl.
Culled from cheatsheet.com