Blast from the past for North's latest tirade

Madam Ri, seen on South Korean TV news, was reportedly brought out of retirement to report the North's nuclear test on Wednesday.
Madam Ri, seen on South Korean TV news, was reportedly brought out of retirement to report the North's nuclear test on Wednesday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

PYONGYANG • Hers is the face and voice that would make North Korea's enemies "tremble in fear".

Anyone following the news of Pyongyang's nuclear test on Wednesday would have seen and heard Madam Ri Chun Hee announcing North Korea's latest nuclear accomplishment on state television.

The 72-year-old grandmother was reportedly brought out of retirement and entrusted with telling the world that the communist state had successfully conducted its first hydrogen bomb test.

Over the years, whether it was announcing the North's nuclear tests or missile launches or denouncing its enemies, Madam Ri did her job with aplomb.

She was an actress before beginning her television career with state-controlled Korean Central Television in 1971, according to a report in Canada's Global News website. She remained its main anchor until her retirement in 2012.

"Her voice grew to have an appeal so that whenever she would speak on the news, viewers were touched," the report cited Reuters as quoting a 2008 article in North Korea's Chosun Monthly magazine. "When Ri announced reports and statements, enemies would tremble in fear."

She has served under all three generations of the Kim dynasty, from founding ruler Kim Il Sung to his son and successor Kim Jong Il and now his grandson Kim Jong Un.

"She has a very aggressive voice, one that North Koreans would say 'fills up the screen'," a South China Morning Post report quoted Mr Kim Yong, a North Korean defector who became a TV personality in South Korea, as saying.

Madam Ri lives in Pyongyang with her husband, children and grandchildren, according to the Chosun Monthly.

"Ri Chun Hee, with her microphone in hand, blessed by the leader, is still with her viewers today looking not a day older than before she was married," it said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'Blast from the past for North's latest tirade'. Print Edition | Subscribe