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- Ri Sol-ju seemed to have been kept inside after appearing too carefree.
- She and her husband Kim Jong-un were seen at a football and musical concert.
The young wife of North Korea’s leader has made her first public appearance in two months, ending what could have been a period of “house arrest” for being too carefree.
Ri Sol-ju had been photographed earlier this year smiling and strolling casually as she accompanied her husband Kim Jong-un, the newly appointed leader of the secretive Stalinist state.
But then she disappeared from view, prompting speculation that she might be pregnant, but more likely because she did not present the stern image promoted by her husband’s late father, Kim Jong-il.
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The happy couple: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walks arm in arm with his wife Ri Sol-ju in July, before his two-month absence
Analysts say that despite the younger Kim’s appointment as the nation’s supreme commander, he is still under the control of the military hierarchy who make sure to present a rigid and authoritarian image to the rest of the world.
That means his wife must remain distant and untouchable in the eyes of the masses, North Korean experts say.
But now Ri is back in the public eye and blurry North Korean television footage shows her enjoying her husband’s company at a soccer match and musical concert this week.
According to the official KCNA news agency, the couple’s appearance at the concert “caused a thunderous applause from the audience.”
The couple’s attendance also marked the first public appearance in two weeks for Kim Jong-un himself, sparking speculation that he has been receiving behavioral advice from the military hierarchy.
Too happy? Analysts believe Ri stayed home because she seemed too “carefree”
South Korea’s intelligence agency is convinced that Ri’s sudden disappearance from state media since early September is because the nation’s elders had raised a problem with his casual and cheerful behavior.
“The analysis has been that there was concern about violation of discipline (by Ri) among North Korean elders, in addition to speculation about pregnancy,” South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported, citing the National Intelligence Service that had given a closed-door briefing to parliament.
Photos taken at the concert showed Ri wearing a long cream-colored coat and what appeared to be a thickening waist, strengthening speculation that she is pregnant.
It was also suggested that she had been kept at home as a disciplinary measure because she had been seen in public without displaying a red lapel pin with the image or images of the two previous leaders.
All high-ranking North Koreans and anyone working for the government must wear them.
Dress to Impress: High-ranking North Koreans should wear the red lapel pins as shown in the image above.
There’s no pin visible in Ri’s latest photos, but it’s possible she’s wearing it under her coat.
If Ri becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, the Kim dynasty is assured.
If you have a girl, analysts say the hierarchy will insist that you “try again.”
South Koreans have carefully studied photographs of Kim and his wife, published on four pages in the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper. Facial expressions and the people accompanying the pair are of vital importance to intelligence collectors.
It was last July when North Korea finally put an end to speculation about the young woman seen accompanying Kim at numerous events in and around the capital, Pyongyang.
She was, state media said, his wife, and those announcements were seen as a slight lifting of the veil of mystery that hid events in the country.
But just when it seemed North Korea was lightening its tough, reclusive image, Ri’s temporary disappearance has left analysts wondering if anything has really changed there.
Monuments: Kim Jong-un delivers a speech during a ceremony to unveil statues of his grandfather Kim Il-sung and father Kim Jong-il (below)