Kim's wife makes first public appearance in more than a year

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's wife, Ri Sol Ju, has been shown by state media appearing in public for the first time in more than a year, joining her husband at a concert on one of the country's biggest holidays.

SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's wife made her first public appearance in over a year, state media reported yesterday, after speculation that her absence could be coronavirus-related or because of a potential pregnancy.

Ms Ri Sol Ju, believed to be in her early 30s, joined her husband at a concert commemorating the birthday of his father and predecessor Kim Jong Il.

The anniversary celebrating the second member of the Kim dynasty to lead the now nuclear-armed North Korea is known as the Day of the Shining Star, and is one of the country's most important public holidays.

North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of the couple smiling broadly and applauding the performers at Mansudae Art Theatre in Pyongyang.

"As the General Secretary came to the auditorium of the theatre together with his wife Ri Sol Ju amid the welcome music, all the participants burst into thunderous cheers of 'Hurrah'," the official KCNA news agency reported.

None of the audience members or performers wore face masks in the pictures.

Ms Ri was last seen in January last year at an event for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Her extended absence prompted questions over her health, whether she might be in seclusion to avoid any risk of coronavirus infection, or was pregnant - the couple are believed to have three children.

The impoverished country has been under self-imposed isolation since closing its borders in January last year, to try to protect itself from the pandemic that has swept the world since first emerging in neighbouring China.

Mr Kim has repeatedly insisted that the country has had no coronavirus cases, although outside experts doubt those assertions.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2021, with the headline 'Kim's wife makes first public appearance in more than a year'. Subscribe