Putting an end to weeks of fevered conjecture,North Koreas state media has revealed that the woman photographed standing next to new dear leader Kim Jong-un at various events,is his wife,rather than a spy,as was jokingly speculated. Ever since her first appearance at a concert for the countrys movers and shakers,Comrade Ri Sol Ju has provoked comment about her identity. It was a typically opaque announcement from a nation that specialises in them; no further details about Ri or the couple were released,although the South Korean media is reporting that Ri has actually travelled across the border to neighbour and bitter enemy South Korea,while another report suggests she used to be a singer. In typical romance novel fashion,Kim is said to have fallen in love with her at one of her performances.
The revelation is remarkable given that North Korea has long shrouded its first ladies behind a veil of secrecy. But Kim has tried to present himself as a more relaxed,modern leader than his intensely private father,who conducted his love life well away from public view. Analysts think the announcement is also meant to depict him as a mature and capable head of state in a country that sees his youth Kim is in his 20s as a problem.
The happy couples public appearances,four till date,are such an anomaly that it is scarcely surprising they have been closely examined,with Ri inspiring Kate Middleton-levels of scrutiny. Could this be a precursor to a more open North Korea? Perhaps. For now,the difference between Kim and his father remains cosmetic.