Coronavirus could be behind Kim Jong-un’s wife’s disappearance from the public eye for more than a year, an expert on North Korea said.
Ri Sol-ju, 32, was last seen on January 25, 2020 when she joined her dictator husband at a New Year’s performance at a Pyongyang theater.
Supreme Leader is believed to have married Ri from Chongjin in North Korea’s Hamgyong Province in 2009.
The couple sat next to Kim’s 74-year-old aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, who had not been involved in public affairs for more than six years after helping him come to power.
But Ri’s fears grow after she mysteriously disappears from view. An expert speculates that she may have disappeared because of the pandemic, reports NK News.
Hong Min, director of the North Korean research division at the Korea Insitute for National Unification (KINU), said: “[Her disappearance] could be due to Covid-19 … As a mother with young children, participating in public activities is at risk of possible infection.
“Even Kim Jong Un received the lowest number of on-site guides over the past year.”
Her disappearance has previously raised concerns that she may have been executed by the ruthless dictator Daily star Reports.
Kim Kyong-hui’s husband, Jang Song-thaek (67), suffered the same fate in December 2013 when Kim Jong-un replaced his dead father Kim Jong-il (70) two years earlier.
Little is known about Ri’s personal life, but it is believed that she graduated from Kim II Sung University.
She is also said to have attended Geomseong Second Middle School in the country’s capital before “going to China to study singing”.
According to South Korean lawmaker Jung Chung-rai, the leader noticed it while giving a performance.
Ri is also believed to come from an elite family – the granddaughter or great-niece of Ri Pyong Chol, the former chief of the Korean People’s Army and Air and Anti-Air Forced.
She was officially identified as Kim’s wife in state media in 2012, although it is believed they married in 2009.
Ri is also believed to have three children with Kim – but this has never been confirmed by North Korea.
Although the family is kept secret, their first child, allegedly a boy, is said to have been born in 2010.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman announced that Ri gave birth to a healthy daughter in 2013.
According to the South Korean secret service, Ri gave birth to another child in February 2017.
The state media dubbed Ri a “respected first lady” when she appeared in public with North Korea’s leaders in the past.
Ri reportedly broke the tradition by becoming the first wife of a North Korean leader to appear in public alongside her husband.
Their absence suggests that Kim no longer cares about looking like a “regular country guide”.
“North Korea has emphasized enough that Kim Jong Un is a normal head of state who brings his wife to events,” said Lim Eul-chul, professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University.
“But now, for Pyongyang, economic problems and real success – not formalities or image – are most important and urgent.”