- 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.
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.
- 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.”
- 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.
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.
Ri is known for her taste in western fashion — she has been spotted carrying expensive bags by designers like Dior and Chanel.
Her penchant for luxury goods has attracted international criticism. North Korean civilians have struggled for years under famine, drought, and widespread poverty.
But the Chinese loved her clothing choices in Beijing. State media reported she wore three different outfits during her two-day visit.
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.
Ri appeared “beautiful and amiable” and had “a powerful presence,” Chinese social media users wrote on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
As a potential meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump looms, perhaps we’ll see more of the elusive Ri Sol Ju.