N.Korean Leader's Wife a Force in Her Own Right?

      May 02, 2013 11:26

      Ri Sol-ju

      North Korea's state-run media no longer refer to Ri Sol-ju as the wife of leader Kim Jong-un but simply by her name, suggesting she now holds some kind of position in her own right.

      The Unification Ministry here says Ri was referred to in the North Korean state media as Kim's wife after all official appearances until early this year.

      But since her visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on Feb. 16 to mark the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's birthday, she has been referred to as "comrade Ri Sol-ju." That was also what the state media called her when she watched a basketball game in Pyongyang on Feb. 28 with former NBA star Dennis Rodman and after other outings since.

      "At first, we thought it was an error, but the omission seems to be intentional because it's so consistent," a government source here said. "It looks like nobody in North Korea needs to be reminded of who Ri is any more."

      Ryu Dong-ryeol at the Police Science Institute speculated that Ri has taken on a key post in the Workers Party or an affiliated women's group.

      The second wife of state founder Kim Il-sung was usually referred to as "Madame Kim Song-ae." She rose in status as the head of a party women's group and was powerful enough to clash with her husband in some cases.

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