- Ri Sol Ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, just received a new status from the country’s state-run media.
- For the first time, North Korean media referred to Ri as the “revered first lady” rather than “comrade.”
- Experts say efforts have been made recently to convey North Korea as a normal state, presenting Ri and Kim as a more traditional “first couple.”
Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been upgraded from “comrade” to “revered first lady” in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.
State-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Ri attended a ballet performance by the visiting National Ballet of China on Saturday. In the report, Ri was referred to as the “revered first lady,” or “respected first lady,” along with a special verb ending which reinforced her honor.
Peter Ward, a writer for NK News, tweeted that the upgraded term is usually reserved for North Korea’s supreme leaders.
While the KCNA article listed other high-ranking regime members who attended the performance – including military official Choe Ryong Hae, national intelligence head Kim Yong Chol, and Kim’s sister and head of propaganda Kim Yo Jong – they were reportedly given the designation “comrades,” signifying a lower status than Ri.
According to UPI, the designation of Ri as a “first lady” may be part of an attempt to present North Korea as a “normal state” that has a traditional “first couple.”
During a meeting between Kim and a South Korean envoy in March, Asahi Shimbun reported that Ri referred to Kim as “my husband,” marking a major shift in language deliberately potentially used to normalize the relationship between the leader and his wife.
While very little is known about the Ri, she was officially identified as Kim Jong Un’s wife in state media in 2012. She has made few public appearances in the past, but was praised for her fashion sense during her surprise visit to China with Kim.
South Korean intelligence reports believe her to be 28 and a mother to three children, however the North Korea’s secretive government has not confirmed that information.
The ballet event celebrated North Korea’s “Day of the Sun,” which marks what is believed to be the birth date of regime founder Kim Il Sung.