Legendary North Korean newsreader emerged from retirement to announce Pyongyang's nuclear test

Retired announcer Ri Chun Hee announced North Korea's hydrogen bomb test on state television.
Retired announcer Ri Chun Hee announced North Korea's hydrogen bomb test on state television.PHOTO: EPA

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 (Jan 6) would have seen and heard Ms 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 from the United States to South Korea and Japan, Ms 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 the 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.

In 2011, Ms Ri, clad in a black hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, went on TV to break the news of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il's death.

She did the same at the death of his father, Great Leader Kim Il Sung, in 1994.

"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.

Ms 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.