The mysterious life of Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, who probably has 3 children and frequently disappears from the public eye

Ri Sol Ju is a mysterious woman.

caption
Ri Sol Ju is a mysterious woman.
source
KCNA via Reuters

Few details are known about Ri Sol-ju, the woman who in 2012 was identified as the wife of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Ri is thought to be 28 now and a mother to three children, according to South Korean intelligence reports. The Hermit Kingdom’s secretive government, however, 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-colored dresses.

Ri 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.

caption
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.
source
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.

caption
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.
source
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.”

caption
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
source
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 Ri gave birth to a child the next year, while others have said that the couple didn’t meet until a classical music concert in 2010.

caption
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.
source
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.

caption
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.
source
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.

caption
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.
source
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.

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

Earlier this 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.

caption
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.
source
KCNA via Reuters

Sources: Agence France-Presse, 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.

caption
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.
source
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.

Ri Sol Ju is a mysterious woman.

caption
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.
source
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.”

caption
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.
source
REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Source: UPI