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Wedding Bells For North Korean President Kim Jong-un

July 25, 2012

What the world does not know is when the little dictator was married.

The North’s Central TV showed Mr. Kim attending a ceremony honoring the completion of an amusement park in the capital, Pyongyang, with the woman, and identified her as “Comrade Ri Sol-ju, wife of Marshal Kim Jong-un,” South Korean officials said.

A North Korean state-run radio station also identified the woman as Mr. Kim’s wife. There were no official accounts, however, of when the marriage took place.

The images were a major shift for North Korea. During the rule of Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, most ordinary North Koreans had never seen their first lady on television; many defectors in that era did not know her name or those of any of the leader’s children. Kim Jong-un himself was widely seen for the first time only in 2010, when he was formally introduced as successor to the leadership.

By revealing Kim Jong-un’s marital status, North Korean media was broadening his appeal and emphasizing his maturity, analysts said.

“Kim Jong-un showing up in public with his wife will appeal well to young North Koreans yearning for change, especially women, who are living in a deeply male-dominated society,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea analyst at Sejong Institute in South Korea and an expert on the Kim family. He said the reports also worked to mitigate the leader’s youth and relative inexperience.

Mr. Cheong offered a number of details, without revealing his sources. He said he believed the marriage occurred in 2009 and that the couple may have had a child the following year. He said that Ms. Ri, 27, graduated from the North’s elite Kim Il-sung University.

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