x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

North Koreans told of their new first lady

North Korean state television has confirmed that leader Kim Jong-un is married and named his wife as Ri Sol-Ju, according to South Korea's unification ministry.

SEOUL // North Korea said its new, young leader Kim Jong-un is married, announcing it for the first time in a brief and routine state TV report yesterday evening.

The report ended weeks of speculation about a beautiful woman who accompanied him to recent public events.

Mr Kim toured an amusement park with his "wife, comrade Ri Sol-ju" on Tuesday, while a crowd cheered for the leader, the speaker said without giving any more details about Ms Ri, including how long they had been married.

Seven months after inheriting the country from his father, Kim Jong-il, the twentysomething leader has been shown in the media several times with the same young woman.

These appearances included a concert where Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters appeared and at tours of various North Korean sites.

While the woman hasn't been identified until now, media and analysts in South Korea were quick to guess that she was his wife.

The short-haired woman was first shown with Mr Kim during a concert in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on July 5.

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 24, photos shown 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 Mr Kim as he hugged and talked to children.

Mr Kim's public appearances with the woman are a striking change from his father's style. Kim Jong-il's 17-year rule was known for its secrecy.

His companions and his children weren't mentioned by state media, including Kim Jong-un, who was virtually unknown before his formal introduction to the world in late 2010.

He is the the third and youngest son of the previous leader of the totalitarian country

The new leader's style is considered more similar to his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, who built homes, parks and schools.

Kim Il-sung was often shown alongside his wife, Kim Jong-suk, and with children in his arms. His grandson has been seen hugging soldiers, posing for photos with troops and linking arms with women.

* With addditional reporting from Agence-France Presse