North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) sit with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (2R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during a farewell ceremony at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.(AFP)
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) sit with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (2R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during a farewell ceremony at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.(AFP)

From cheerleader to global stage, North Korea’s first lady Ri Sol Ju at Korean summit

Ri Sol Ju posed for photographs with her husband, Moon and Moon’s wife ahead of the dinner, holding a black clutch and wearing pink lipstick and eyeshadow before attending a dinner hosted by Moon
By Reuters | Reuters, Seoul
UPDATED ON APR 28, 2018 12:12 PM IST

Ri Sol Ju first travelled to South Korea more than a decade ago as a cheerleader for North Korea’s 2005 athletics team.

On Friday she returned as the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sharing the global stage with her husband after a historic summit that pledged to end more than 60 years of conflict on the Korean peninsula.

In matching bright pink skirt and jacket and glittery black high heels, Ri smiled as she was greeted by her South Korean counterpart, Kim Jung-sook and later the leaders of the two Koreas.

“I was so glad to hear the summit went well,” Ri told South Korean President Moon Jae-In as the four spoke briefly in the lobby of the Peace House in the South Korean side of the border with North Korea.

It was the first time any North Korean leader had brought his wife to a summit with a South Korean president. Kim’s father and grandfather who led North Korea before him had never taken their wives to official meetings with other heads of state.

Kim Jong Il, Jong Un’s father, was never seen in public with any of his wives.

Ri Sol Ju (L), wife of North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Jung-sook (R), wife of South Koreas President Moon Jae-in, walk together during a farewell ceremony at the end of the historic inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. (AFP)
Ri Sol Ju (L), wife of North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Jung-sook (R), wife of South Koreas President Moon Jae-in, walk together during a farewell ceremony at the end of the historic inter-Korean summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. (AFP)

Little is known about Ri, including her exact age, when she married Kim or whether they had a wedding ceremony.

However, her style and attire have often been the focus of media attention, with state-distributed photograph showing designer handbags by Dior and Chanel hanging off her shoulder.

Ri posed for photographs with her husband, Moon and Moon’s wife ahead of the dinner, holding a black clutch and wearing pink lipstick and eyeshadow before attending a dinner hosted by Moon.

In contrast, her sister-in-law Kim Yo Jong, who accompanied Kim Jong Un to the summit from the start on Friday, wore a grey two-piece skirt suit and modest low, black heels.

First Lady

Ri’s first official appearance as Kim’s wife in North Korean state media was in July 2012 at an opening ceremony for an amusement park, seen holding onto Kim’s arm affectionately as they toured the grounds.

Image consultants say she has helped create a softer, more approachable image for Kim that has aided him as he seeks to burnish his credentials as a world leader.

During his surprise visit to China last month, Chinese state television gave similar coverage to Kim’s visit with President Xi Jinping as they did to Xi’s meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump last year.

Ri was there with her husband and met Xi and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, winning praise from social media users in China who called her “beautiful” and compared her to pop stars.

“Kim Jong Un wants to be seen as a respected state leader inside his country and out,” said Jeong Yeung-tae, head of the Institute of North Korea Studies in Seoul.

“By bringing his wife along, he’s saying ‘Look at me, I’m as much of a country leader as you are.’“

Ri’s status within North Korea has also risen in recent weeks, after state media began referring to her as First Lady during Ri and her husband’s visit to China.

That was the first time the title was used in North Korea in more than 40 years.

Prior to this, Ri had been called “comrade” or simply, “wife of Kim Jong Un”.

According to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, the last time North Korean state media referred to someone as First Lady was in 1974 for Kim Song Ae, the wife of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un.

State media has also called her “respected Ri Sol Ju”, an adjective rarely used for members other than the North’s leadership. Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, is referred to by her party position.

Analysts said that doesn’t mean Ri is of a higher rank than Kim Yo Jong.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet with Moons wife Kim Jung-sook and Kims wife Ri Sol Ju at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. (REUTERS)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet with Moons wife Kim Jung-sook and Kims wife Ri Sol Ju at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. (REUTERS)

“In North Korea, the wife of the leader does not have many roles...If the wife tries to do something political then she would have a hard time,” Jeong, the analyst, said.

“The sister has a powerful role as her brother’s helper. At the end of the day, Ri is just Kim Jong Un’s wife,” he added.

Friday’s summit and another between North Korea and the United States scheduled for late May or June are expected to lend more information about the couple.

South Korean intelligence officials have briefed parliament officials that Ri and Kim have three children.

Former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman, who has frequently visited North Korea, said he met their second child in 2013.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage increase violated strict budget rules limiting what can be included in a package that can be passed with 51 votes rather than the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.(Bloomberg)
The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage increase violated strict budget rules limiting what can be included in a package that can be passed with 51 votes rather than the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.(Bloomberg)

Democrats come out with own version of $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill

AP, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 09:52 AM IST
Under the House bill, the cash payment would phase out for singles with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000. But under the Senate bill, the phaseout stops at $80,000.
Close
Somalia's state-controlled Radio Mogadishu reported there was also destruction of property and that police had cordoned off the area.(Reuters Photo)
Somalia's state-controlled Radio Mogadishu reported there was also destruction of property and that police had cordoned off the area.(Reuters Photo)

At least 20 killed, 30 wounded by suicide car bomb in Somalia capital

Posted by Prashasti Singh | Reuters, Mogadishu
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:03 AM IST
The blast sent plumes of smoke into the sky and triggered gunfire, witnesses and state-owned media reported.
Close
The relief legislation, aimed at battling the killer virus and nursing the staggered economy back to health, will provide direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans.(Bloomberg)
The relief legislation, aimed at battling the killer virus and nursing the staggered economy back to health, will provide direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans.(Bloomberg)

Democrats split on jobless benefits slows Covid relief bill in Senate

AP, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 06:15 AM IST
Work on the Senate floor ceased for over eight hours as Democrats sought a way to salvage their unemployment provision.
Close
File photo of Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.(AFP photo)
File photo of Britain's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.(AFP photo)

'UK's Prince Philip transferred back to private hospital': Buckingham Palace

Posted by Prashasti Singh | Reuters, London
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 06:03 AM IST
Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who has been hospitalised for more than two weeks, was moved to a London hospital with a specialist cardiac centre on Monday for treatment for a pre-existing heart issue.
Close
The Sri Lanka government last month revised a gazette notification issued in April last year. The new notification allowed both burials and cremations.(REUTERS)
The Sri Lanka government last month revised a gazette notification issued in April last year. The new notification allowed both burials and cremations.(REUTERS)

Sri Lanka buries first Covid-19 victims after long standoff

Posted by Prashasti Singh | PTI, Colombo
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 06:00 AM IST
Amidst mounting international criticism, Sri Lanka revised a controversial mandatory order to cremate the bodies of Covid-19 victims, which denied minority communities, including Muslims, their religious rights.
Close
China on Thursday launched a legislative process for drastic electoral system reform in Hong Kong.(REUTERS)
China on Thursday launched a legislative process for drastic electoral system reform in Hong Kong.(REUTERS)

US condemns China's move to alter Hong Kong's electoral system

ANI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 05:43 AM IST
The new reforms come months after China passed the nationals security law to quash the resistance to its rule in Hong Kong.
Close
Trump, and the other defendants waged a "campaign of lies and incendiary rhetoric" which led to the assault on Congress, Representative Eric Swalwell of California charged in the civil suit.(AFP)
Trump, and the other defendants waged a "campaign of lies and incendiary rhetoric" which led to the assault on Congress, Representative Eric Swalwell of California charged in the civil suit.(AFP)

Donald Trump faces another lawsuit over US Capitol attack

AFP
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 05:37 AM IST
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives for his role in inciting the attack on the Capitol but acquitted by the Senate.
Close
The roundabout, back and forth drive lasted just 33 minutes and went so well that more driving was on tap Friday and Saturday for the the six-wheeled rover.(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS)
The roundabout, back and forth drive lasted just 33 minutes and went so well that more driving was on tap Friday and Saturday for the the six-wheeled rover.(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS)

Nasa's new Mars rover hits dusty red road, 21 feet in first test drive

AP, Cape Canaveral
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 05:17 AM IST
The Perseverance rover ventured from its landing position Thursday, two weeks after setting down on the red planet to seek signs of past life.
Close
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the vulnerabilities found in Microsoft's widely used Exchange servers were "significant".(REUTERS)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the vulnerabilities found in Microsoft's widely used Exchange servers were "significant".(REUTERS)

More than 20,000 US organizations compromised through Microsoft flaw: Report

Reuters, Washington
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 05:12 AM IST
It is the latest indication of how problems in widely used software can be used as jumping-off points for wide-ranging digital espionage campaigns.
Close
SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has licensed the AstraZeneca/Oxford University product and will soon start bulk-manufacturing the Novavax shot.(Shankar Narayan/HT File Photo)
SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has licensed the AstraZeneca/Oxford University product and will soon start bulk-manufacturing the Novavax shot.(Shankar Narayan/HT File Photo)

US export ban could hit Covid vaccine supply, says SII chief

Reuters, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 03:06 AM IST
  • India’s Biological E has tied up with J&J to potentially contract manufacture up to 600 million doses of its vaccine per year.
Close
Condemnation of the coup and subsequent violence has come largely from the West.(AP)
Condemnation of the coup and subsequent violence has come largely from the West.(AP)

Crackdown in Myanmar continues as UNSC prepares to discuss crisis

Reuters, Yangon
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:32 AM IST
  • The violence took place as the US announced new sanctions targeting military conglomerates after the deaths of dozens of civilian protesters.
Close
The election committee will participate in the nomination of candidates for Hong Kong’s legislature and elect “a relatively large share” of its members, said Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC’s standing committee.
The election committee will participate in the nomination of candidates for Hong Kong’s legislature and elect “a relatively large share” of its members, said Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC’s standing committee.

Beijing to tighten grip on HK polls

AP, Beijing
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:28 AM IST
  • The changes are part of a draft decision submitted on the opening day of the week-long meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s ceremonial legislature, which will all but certainly endorse it.
Close
China shares land boundaries with India, Nepal and Bhutan in South Asia.(Reuters)
China shares land boundaries with India, Nepal and Bhutan in South Asia.(Reuters)

China plans to help build a ‘passageway’ between Tibet and South Asia

By Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:25 AM IST
  • A brief report published by news agency Xinhua says the central government will support the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to build the passageway.
Close
The PHE said the strain had been declared a variant under investigation (VUI) and contained the E484K mutation that is a feature of the South African and Brazilian variants.(Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash)
The PHE said the strain had been declared a variant under investigation (VUI) and contained the E484K mutation that is a feature of the South African and Brazilian variants.(Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash)

UK detects 16 cases of new Covid-19 variant

Agencies, London, San Diego
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:19 AM IST
  • Public Health England (PHE) said cases of the variant known as B.1.1.318 were first identified on February 15 and it was understood to have originated in the UK.
Close
The report was originally due to be published in two stages: an initial summary in February followed by the full text.
The report was originally due to be published in two stages: an initial summary in February followed by the full text.

Pandemic origin: WHO to publish report on Mar 15

Agencies, Geneva
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 01:25 AM IST
  • The controversy over the investigation organised by the World Health Organization and China about the origins of Covid-19 heated up as a group of scientists called for an independent probe to consider all hypotheses and nail down whether the virus came from an animal.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP