Ri Sol Ju: The mysterious life of Kim Jong Un’s wife

Ri Sol Ju
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol Ju pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol Ju pose with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China. KCNA/Reuters
Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un , quickly became a fashion hit in China when the couple paid a surprise visit to Beijing this week to meet with President Xi Jinping.
Social media users praised Ri for her looks and outfits, which they reportedly viewed as old-fashioned, but flattering and polished, nonetheless.

Beyond her taste in fashion, few details are known about Ri, the woman who in 2012 was identified as Kim’s wife.

She is thought to be 28 now and a mother to three children, according to South Korean intelligence reports. But the Hermit Kingdom’s secretive government has not confirmed that information.

Ri doesn’t appear in public very often. She’s usually seen when Kim celebrates missile test launches, and is always photographed smiling politely, wearing clean-cut, pastel dresses.

She was reportedly born into an elite family – her father was a professor and her mother a doctor – but little else is known about her life, or how she ultimately became the wife of the world’s most notorious living dictator.

Here’s everything we know about Ri Sol Ju:

Ri Sol Ju was first identified as the wife of Kim Jong Un in July 2012, when North Korean state media made it official.


An international media frenzy had been mounting for weeks over the “mystery woman” spotted with Kim at a a series of public events, including a theater performance featuring Disney characters, and a tribute to Kim’s grandfather on the anniversary of his death.

Kim applauds with his wife Ri during a demonstration performance by the newly formed Moranbong band in Pyongyang in this undated picture released by the KCNA July 9, 2012. KCNA via Reuters Source: CNN

Ri’s eventual public introduction was underwhelming, to say the least. North Korean media mentioned her almost as an afterthought during coverage of an amusement park opening in Pyongyang.

Kim and Ri attend the opening ceremony of the Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground on Rungna Islet along the Taedong River in Pyongyang in this July 25, 2012 photograph released by the KCNA.
KCNA via Reuters Source: The New York Times

“While a welcoming song was resonating,” state television reported, “Marshal Kim Jong Un appeared at the ceremony site, with his wife, Comrade Ri Sol Ju.”

Kim stands next to Ri as they attend the 2014 Combat Flight Contest among commanding officers of the Korean People’s Air Force in this undated photo released by the KCNA in Pyongyang May 10, 2014
KCNA via Reuters Source: The New York Times

It’s unclear exactly when Kim and Ri got married. Some have reported the wedding was in 2009 and that Ri gave birth to a child the next year, while others have said the couple didn’t meet until a classical music concert in 2010.

Kim and Ri arrive at an auditorium to attend a performance given by the Moranbong Band to celebrate the 59th anniversary of “the victory” of 1950-53 Korean War in Pyongyang in this picture released by the North’s official KCNA news agency on July 31, 2012. KCNA via Reuters Sources: BBC, The Daily Beast

The secrecy around their wedding was no surprise to North Koreans and international observers of the Hermit Kingdom. Kim’s father never introduced his multiple wives to the public at all.

Source: The New York Times


Little is known about the life Ri led before marrying Kim, but South Korean intelligence reports have said she once studied singing in China, and visited South Korea in 2005 as a member of North Korea’s cheerleading squad.

Kim and Ri look on during a visit to Unit 1017 of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force in this undated picture released by North Korea’s KCNA on June 21, 2013. KCNA via Reuters Source: CNN

Ri is known for her taste in western fashion — she has been spotted carrying expensive bags by designers like Dior and Chanel.

Kim speaks next to Ri as he gives field guidance at the new terminal of Pyongyang International Airport in this undated photo released by KCNA on June 25, 2015. KCNA via Reuters Source: Business Insider

Her penchant for luxury goods has attracted international criticism. North Korean civilians have struggled for years under famine, drought, and widespread poverty.

North Koreans travel in a truck in a field northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

But the Chinese loved her clothing choices in Beijing. State media reported she wore three different outfits during her two-day visit.

Kim and Ri meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, seen in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on March 28, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters Souce: South China Morning Post

One of them was a cropped jacket and a matching dress, with a pink and gold butterfly-shaped brooch. On another outing she wore a white coat overtop a pastel green dress, and for lunch she changed into a cream-colored peplum dress.

Kim Ri visit the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. KCNA/via Reuters Source: South China Morning Post

Ri appeared “beautiful and amiable” and had “a powerful presence,” Chinese social media users wrote on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Kim and Ri walk with Xi and Peng in Beijing, China. KCNA/via Reuters Source: South China Morning Post

Last year, Ri disappeared from public view for several months, prompting speculation over her well-being. In August, South Korean intelligence reported that she had given birth to a child and dropped out of the public eye because she was pregnant.

Kim and Ri play with children during a visit to the Taesongsan General Hospital in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by the KCNA May 19, 2014. KCNA via Reuters Sources: AFP, CNN

It’s believed that Ri and Kim now have three children, though the most detailed information comes from former NBA star Dennis Rodman, well-known for his controversial friendship with Kim and frequent trips to North Korea. Rodman said he met the couple’s second child in 2013, a baby girl named Ju-ae.

Source: The Guardian


“I held their baby Ju-ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well. [Kim’s] a good dad and has a beautiful family,” Rodman told The Guardian. Those details have not been independently corroborated.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman shows a picture he took with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as he arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport September 7, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon Source: The Guardian

South Korean media has speculated that Ri may have been pressured to have a third child in the hopes that it would be a boy who could inherit Kim’s dictatorship, assuming both of the couple’s previous children were girls.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju disembark a plane for the 2014 Combat Flight Contest in Pyongyang on May 10, 2014. KCNA via Reuters Source: UPI

One North Korean defector-turned-researcher, Ahn Chan-il, told South Korean news network YTN that there was “pressure to quickly give birth to a son, because the regime is not so sturdy.”

An activist from an anti-North Korea civic group defaces a North Korea flag depicting North’s leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju during a rally against North Korea’s nuclear test near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul February 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji  Source: UPI

As a potential meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump looms, perhaps we’ll see more of the elusive Ri Sol Ju.

Kim, Ri, Xi, and wife Peng toast each other in Beijing, China. KCNA/via Reuters

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