Ri Sol Ju, Kim Jong Un’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol-ju

Getty North Korean first lady Ri Sol-ju (L) and Leader Kim Jong Un (R).

There are multiple conflicting reports circling around about the health status of the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un. A former South Korean official, Chang Song-min, who worked as an aide to the late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, has alleged that the North Korean leader is in a coma, telling South Korean media: “I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended,” according to the New York Post.

This report comes on the heels of months of speculation about the leader’s health due to his limited public appearances. In April, CNN and other media outlets reported that Kim Jong Un was in “grave danger” after undergoing surgery.

Because it is notoriously difficult to get news from inside the country, a lot of what is known is based on propaganda video and state media. One thing that’s been confirmed by North Korean state media is that Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea since his father’s death in 2011, is married to Ri Sol Ju and has been for about a decade.

Here’s what you need to know about Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju:

1. The Two Are Believed to Have Married in 2009, Although It Was Only Reported by North Korean State Media in 2012

North And South Korean Leaders Meet For Third Summit In Pyongyang

GettyNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) pose with South Korean President Moon Jae In (2nd R) and his wife Kim Jung Sook (R).

In July 2012, the BBC reported that North Korean state media confirmed that Kim Jong Un was married. In an eight-minute radio broadcast, it mentioned that the leader was at an event with his wife, “Comrade Ri Sol-ju.” The BBC reported that an analyst named Cheong Seong-chang told the South Korean Korea Times newspaper that the two married in 2009.

“The late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il arranged his youngest son’s marriage in a hurry after suffering a stroke in 2008,” Cheong told the publication.

2. The Couple Is Believed to Have 3 Children Together

Very little is known about the first family of Korea. Kim Jong Un and Ri Sol Ju are believed to have three children together, although there could be more or less since details of their private lives are few and far between, and Ri Sol Ju frequently disappears from the public eye.

According to a Newsweek report, Ri Sol Ju first gave birth to a son in 2010 after the couple was married in 2009. This was shared by analyst Cheong Seong-chang. Others are skeptical of the report, especially the claim that the baby is male, since some experts say that Kim Jong Un would likely publicly announce the birth of a baby.

Dennis Rodman, a retired NBA star, became friends with the leader on a basketball trip to North Korea. He shared that on a return visit in 2013, he met Kim Jong Un and his wife as well as their baby daughter, who was not yet known to the public at the time. He told The Guardian, “I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ri as well. He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family.”

In 2017, there were news and rumors that Ri Sol Ju had given birth to another child, possibly their third according to Newsweek.

3. She Took on a Diplomatic Role in the Last Couple of Years & Her Title Changed to ‘Respected First Lady’

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Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Looks Round Revolutionary Battle Sites in Mt Paektu Area It is of remarkable historic significance that Kim Jong Un, the great leader of our revolution who opens up the period of a great leap for the development of the revolution, personally left the sacred trace in the revolutionary battle sites in Mt Paektu area, the source of the lifeline of the revolution and inexhaustible patriotism, through knee-high virgin snow. Kim Jong Un acquainted himself with the preservation and management of the revolutionary battle sites in the area of Mt Paektu and the real state of study tour and indicated the historic importance of education in the revolutionary traditions and ways for intensifying it on the higher level, while making the rounds of the revolutionary battle sites, revolutionary sites and lodging quarters for visitors in Samjiyon County, Mupho Bivouac and the Taehongdan Revolutionary Battle Site while recalling the sacred footprints President Kim Il Sung left in the battle sites on Mt Paektu and the noble soul of the anti-Japanese revolutionary forerunners. Riding a steed across the vast area of Mt Paektu together with the commanding officers who accompanied him, he recollected the bloody history of the guerrillas who recorded dignity on the first page of the history of the Korean revolution by shedding their blood in the vast plain of Mt Paektu.

A post shared by News Site about the DPRK (@northkorea_dprk_newssite) on Dec 3, 2019 at 7:45pm PST

The wife of the North Korean leader has been in and out of the public eye since their marriage in 2009. Between 2012 and 2014, she accompanied the leader to many engagements, but in the next few years, she often disappeared from the public eye for months, leading to intense speculation.

In 2018, she took on a more important diplomatic role than in previous years. In March 2018, she accompanied her husband on a visit to China and met Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife. She also attended the April 2018 inter-Korean summit and met the wife of the South Korean President. Before that summit, her title was officially changed from “Comrade” to “respected First Lady,” the first time that title had been used in over 40 years.

4. Ri Sol Ju & Her Family Are Said to Be Educated & From the Country’s Political Elite

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Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Inspects Mt Kumgang Tourist Area Kim Jong Un looked round Kosong Port, Haegumgang Hotel, House of Culture, Kumgangsan Hotel, Kumgangsan Okryu Restaurant, Kumgang Pension Town, Kuryong Village, Onchon Village, Family Hotel, Onjong Pavilion No. 2, Kosong Port Golf Course, Kosong Port Immigration Office, etc. which were built by the south side and Lagoon Samil and areas of Sea Kumgang and Kuryong Pool. Learning in detail about the service facilities in the tourist area, he said that the buildings are just a hotchpotch with no national character at all, and that they were built like makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area or isolation wards. He added they are not only very backward in terms of architecture but look so shabby as they are not taken proper care of. He said that it was extremely wrong that a few blocks of such buildings reminiscent of temporary buildings at construction sites were set up for the tour of Mt Kumgang, the world-famous mountain. He added that in the past those concerned with construction built awkward-looking tourist service facilities only to damage the natural scenery. He said that due to the mistaken policy of the predecessors who tried to get benefits without any efforts after just offering the tourist area, the mountain has been left uncared for more than ten years to leave a flaw and the land is worthy of better cause. He made a sharp criticism of the very wrong, dependent policy of the predecessors who were going to rely on others when the country was not sufficient enough. He pointed out that structures on our land must be those of our style rich in national character and they must be created to meet our own sentiment and aesthetic taste

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Not much is known about the North Korean First Lady’s early life. She’s believed to be between 30 and 35 years old depending on sources, with 31 or 32 the most frequently mentioned. According to many reports, her family is educated and belongs to the political elite of the country. Her mother is the head of a gynecology unit at a local hospital and her father is a professor at a university.

Ri Sol Ju also apparently has an education, graduating from Geumsung 2 Middle School in Pyongyang and studying music abroad in China. Another report states that she was a graduate student at Kim Il-sung University and pursued a Ph.D. in science. This information has not been confirmed by official sources.

5. Some Commentators Believe That Ri Sol Ju Used to Be a Singer & Entertainer

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Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Has Talks with President Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK, had talks with Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez, president of the Council of State and president of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, on Sunday afternoon. Supreme Leader of the Party, state and armyKim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju met the Cuban president and his wife outside the talks room of the Paekhwawon State Guest House in a warm atmosphere, exchanged greetings with their hands held each other and had a souvenir photo taken. Then, there was a tete-a-tete betweenKim Jong Un and Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez. Warmly welcoming the visit to the DPRK by Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez, president of the Council of State and president of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, Kim Jong Un said that the current visit of the delegation would offer an occasion for demonstrating the invincibility of the traditional fellowship, trust, friendship and solidarity of the peoples of the two countries and serve as a manifestation of support and solidarity to the Korean people's just cause. Noting that he was deeply moved to receive the warm hospitality and enthusiastic welcome by Kim Jong Un, the Korean Party and government and Pyongyang citizens, the Cuban president said that the Cuban party, government and people were pleased to see the Korean people invariably advancing along the road chosen by themselves and making a rapid development under the leadership ofKim Jong Un #NorthKorea #cuba #dprk #korea #republicofcuba #kimjongun #supreme #leader #president #miguel #pyongyang #friendship

A post shared by News Site about the DPRK (@northkorea_dprk_newssite) on Nov 5, 2018 at 2:38pm PST

The details of Ri Sol Ju’s life before her marriage to Kim are hazy, but some political analysts believe that she used to be a singer and entertainer. There is a North Korean performer with the same name as Ri Sol Ju, but the country has never officially confirmed that they are the same person.

The Choson Ilbo newspaper reported that a singer with the same name was a performer with the Eunhasu Orchestra until 2011. They also said that footage from a North Korean TV broadcast in January 2011 shows the singer, and there is a striking resemblance to Kim Jong Un’s wife.

South Korean lawmaker Jung Chung-rai also shared information about Ri Sol Ju, saying intelligence agents believed that she may have visited South Korea in 2005 as a member of the country’s cheerleading team. South Korean news agency Yonhap also wrote that she is likely to have “participated in several inter-Korean exchange programmes,” specifically three events between 2003 and 2005 attended by someone from North Korea with the same name.

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