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PHOTOS: Meet North Korea's mystery woman

Last updated on: July 27, 2012 09:01 IST

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North Korea's state run media has finally revealed the identity of the 'mystery woman' spotted next to the country's young leader Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang's KRT reported that the woman who has been seen with Kim on several recent occasions is his wife, the country's First Lady.

The channel named her as Ri Sol-ju, but provided no other details.

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Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his wife Ri Sol-Ju attend the opening ceremony of the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground on Rungna Islet along the Taedong River in Pyongyang in this July 25, 2012 photograph released by the North's KCNA to Reuters
Photographs: Reuters/KCNA

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Ri was first spotted sitting next to Kim on June 7 at a performance of the Moranbong troupe, a newly-created musical group that embraces American pop culture to a degree remarkable for a nation known for its determination to keep itself hermetically sealed from the outside world.

At the time, North Korea watchers guessed she was his sister.

But when she was spotted by his side again on July 8, at an event marking the 18th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's death, speculation leaned toward her being his wife.

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Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his wife, who was named by the state broadcaster as Ri Sol-ju, visit the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang
Photographs: Reuters/KCNA

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A report by the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said Ri was active in the North's Unhasu Orchestra until last year and had performed for Jong-Un and his father on New Year's Eve 2010.

"There is a possibility Jong-un chose her as his wife after seeing her at the concert hall," it quoted a source, as saying.

The paper quoted another source, as saying that after marriage, Ri had undergone a six-month course in duties of a first lady at Kim Il-sung University, the nation's most prestigious academic institution.

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Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his wife visit the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang
Photographs: Reuters/KCNA

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Analysts say the disclosure of his marital status was aimed at sending the message that the 20-something Kim was mature and stable, someone people can relate to despite having only seven months of experience as leader following the death of his father in December.

Marriage would ease worries among Kim's people and the much older officials serving under him "about the youth question," Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, told the Huffington Post.

While Kim Jong-Il's wives were never pictured at official functions, "the regime is now facing a different situation, and the move is part of work to make Kim Jong-Un appear old and wise enough to rule", said Seoul-based online newspaper Daily NK.

Kim was made "Marshal" of North Korea last week, a title previously held by his late father, in the latest of a series of moves analysts say are aimed at strengthening his control over the country's powerful military.

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Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un applauds with his wife Ri Sol-Ju during a demonstration performance by the newly formed Moranbong band in Pyongyang
Photographs: Reuters/KCNA

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