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Mystery woman is Kim’s wife

AFP: NORTH Korean state media has confirmed that its new leader Kim Jong-Un is married and named his wife as Ri Sol-Ju.
The announcement ended weeks of speculation about the identity of a stylish young woman pictured accompanying the young leader to official events this month.

State television reported that Mr Kim and Ms Ri took part in a ceremony marking the completion of a Pyongyang amusement park.

“Marshal Kim Jong-Un took part in the opening ceremony of Nungra People’s Amusement Park with his wife, Comrade Ri Sol-Ju,” it reported.

The couple were given a warm welcome, the official news agency said. “All the participants enthusiastically welcomed them, loudly shouting ‘Hurrah!'”, it reported.

A smiling Mr Kim and his wife toured the pleasure grounds and watched a dolphin show “to the tune of joyful music” together with senior party, state and army officials and diplomats, the agency said.

There was no information on how long they have been married.

Mr Kim, believed to be in his late twenties, took over the nuclear-armed nation when his father Kim Jong-Il died last December. But the intensely secretive state had previously released no details of his private life.

The short-haired woman was first shown with Jong-Un during a concert in Pyongyang on July 6. She was seen walking next to the leader on July 8 when he visited the mausoleum of his grandfather and the nation’s founder Kim Il-Sung.

On July 15, photos aired by state television showed her standing close to the new leader during a visit to a kindergarten.

With other officials staying a few steps behind the pair, the woman was seen smiling while standing immediately behind or next to Jong-Un as he hugged and talked to children.

In contrast to his late father, who spoke just once at a public event during his 17 years in power, the younger Kim has cultivated an outgoing and informal style.

He has been seen hugging soldiers, posing for photos with troops and linking arms with women.

The chubby young man physically resembles his late grandfather, who still commands respect among some North Koreans for his past as an anti-Japanese guerrilla fighter and national founder.

“It’s quite unusual for North Korea to present its leader and wife together in public,” said Yang Moo-Jin of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies.

“This highlights the regime’s campaign to create a new image for its leader.”

Mr Yang said Jong-Un is also trying to show the people that his leadership is stable.

Analysts say Mr Kim appears fully in charge of the nation, despite having had relatively little time to prepare for the succession.

Last week the regime sacked powerful military chief Ri Yong-Ho on the grounds of ill health, in what was seen as a move by the young leader to strengthen his grip on the 1.2 million-strong armed forces.

Kim Jong-Un was later appointed “Marshal” of North Korea, a title previously held by his late father.

The International Crisis Group think-tank said Mr Kim appears to be in charge in his own right despite speculation he would have to rely on close advisers.

But it said there was nothing to suggest the young leader would take measures to improve the lot of his people or reduce regional frictions.

Regional tensions have been high since the North launched a long-range rocket on April 13. It said the aim was to launch a peaceful satellite, while the United States and its allies saw a disguised ballistic missile test.

Published Date: Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 | 02:58 PM

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