Not much is known about the personal life of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — understandable, given that he’s the head of a totalitarian government and the global media has been focusing on his constant nuclear brinksmanship. It’s only natural if you’re asking questions like, is Kim Jong Un married? If so, who is Kim Jong Un’s wife? Does he have kids?
With South and North Korea now in detente, and Kim scheduled to meet with President Trump on June 12 in Singapore, observers are grappling for clues on what to expect and looking closely at the man himself. Chief among his personal details: Yes, Kim has a wife and at least one child.
Is Kim Jong Un married, and if so, who is his wife?
You’re excused if you’ve been asking is Kim Jong Un married, since it wasn’t until late last month that Ri Sol Ju was named “respected first lady of North Korea” by Kim, the first time in 40 years that title had been used. She is beginning to take a more prominent public role “that analysts have interpreted as the beginnings of a ‘personality cult,'” reported CNN on April 27.
It’s a fairly rapid rise. In mid-2012, reports called Ri a “mystery woman” at Kim’s side and speculated that she was his sister. That is traditional — the wives of North Korea’s previous two leaders, Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather, were almost never mentioned or seen in public.
Ri Sol Ju has become far more visible, accompanying Kim to a state dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March and at a post-summit dinner with Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But details about her life are still sketchy. Ri is believed to be in her 20s or early 30s, a graduate of Kim Sung Il University and a granddaughter or grand-niece of a leader in the Korean People’s Army. A former singer, Ri was also at least an amateur cheerleader — she was photographed as part of a North Korean cheering squad at the 2005 Asian Athletic Championships in Incheon, South Korea.
The first mention of Kim’s offspring came in 2013, when Kim friend and former NBA star Dennis Rodman told the UK Sun that Kim has a daughter. After a trip to visit Kim, Rodman talked about meeting Ri and said “she kept talking about their beautiful baby daughter.”
Citing South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) and two South Korean lawmakers, CNN reports that Kim and his wife have three children, the first a boy born in 2010 and the second a girl born in 2013.
The Guardian says that Ri’s promotion is part of efforts to paint North Korea as a “normal state” ahead of the nuclear disarmament talks with Trump next month. Ri is expected to be there. “The summit is being held as equals, so if Melania Trump attends, Ri will attend,” said An Chan-il, a defector researcher.