North Korea on Wednesday ended worldwide speculation about the identity of a mystery woman who has been seen at leader Kim Jong-un's side by confirming she is his wife. State TV, reporting Kim's visit to the opening of an amusement park in Pyongyang, said the stylish woman accompanying him was "Comrade Ri Sol-ju, wife of Marshal Kim Jong-un."
Ri had set tongues wagging when she was spotted by Kim’s side at several public events earlier this month.
A government source here said a singer of the same name performed with the Unhasu Orchestra until last year. A look at a North Korean TV broadcast in January of 2011 shows the singer performing on stage, and she looks exactly like Kim's wife with the round face, shape of ears and teeth.
According to North Korean reports, former leader Kim Jong-il and Jong-un watched the performance on Dec. 31, 2010, the source said, and Kim junior may have fallen for her when he saw her on stage that night.
"To my knowledge, Ri was a performer with the artistic troupe for the State Security Department," said an informed source. "She was groomed as the first lady for about six months in special classes at Kim Il-sung University."
Kim Jong-il also married a performer, the dancer Ko Yong-hui, who is Jong-un's mother.
This is the first time since nation founder Kim Il-sung's rule that North Korea has revealed the identity of the leader's wife. Kim Jong-il had four or five wives, but their existence was kept secret.
Ri was first spotted sitting next to Kim on June 7 at a performance by the newly-created Moranbong troupe. At the time, North Korea watchers guessed she was his sister.
But when she was spotted by his side again on July 8, at an event marking the 18th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's death, speculation leaned toward her being his wife.