February 17, 2021 13:27
The wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared in public for the first time in more than a year. Ri Sol-ju attended a concert commemorating the birthday of late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on Tuesday, the official Rodong Sinmun reported the following day.
There had been the usual speculation over her long absence since her last public appearance in January last year. The National Intelligence Service here earlier said that no unusual signs have been observed and she just seemed to be isolating with her kids amid the coronavirus epidemic.
Meanwhile, the English title of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been changed from "chairman" to "president," the NIS claimed Tuesday. The spy agency said the change was part of the North Korean regime's new "people-first" doctrine that aims to humanize the leader.
The report came in a secret briefing to the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee, which was immediately leaked to the media as convention demands.
The regime also enacted new laws last December to punish those who embrace South Korean pop culture. "Those importing and distributing South Korean videos and films face the death penalty, and the penalty for watching them has been tightened from a five years in prison to 15 years," a lawmaker quoted the NIS as saying. The same applies to South Korean books, pictures or songs. Even those who talk or sing "in a South Korean way" could face two years of hard labor.
Kim's own health seems to be fine as he spoke for a total of nine hours at the Workers Party congress over the course of three days last month.
As for Kim's younger sister Yo-jong, the NIS confirmed that she has been ousted from the Politburo, where she was what is called a "candidate member," but her role as Kim Kong-un's right-hand woman and attack dog appears unchanged.
In other revelations, the NIS said there have been no fewer than 1.58 million attempted cyberattacks on South Korea on average every day, up 32 percent on-year. While many are launched from China and Russia, most originate from North Korea.
Some hackers tried to steal core technologies to develop coronavirus vaccines and treatments, and pharma giant Pfizer was among the targets.
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