SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean state media reported public appearances by the wife of leader Kim Jong-un for the first time in two months on Tuesday amid mounting speculation that she had been chastised for inappropriate conduct or that she may be pregnant.
Ri Sol-ju’s once frequent appearances with her husband in public reported in state media had marked the starkest break by the North’s leadership from the dour image of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, who was rarely seen in public with any of his wives.
Ri attended football match and a musical concert with Kim Jong-un on Monday. Their appearance at the concert “drew a thunderous cheer from the audience”, the official KCNA news agency said on Tuesday.
Activities and public appearances in choreographed media reports give rare indications of events inside the reclusive state, which is locked in a stand-off with its neighbors and the West over its nuclear weapons program.
Kim Jong-il, who died in December, had suffered a stroke in 2008 which was followed by a sudden disappearance from media until re-emerging in early 2009 appearing gaunt and ill.
Monday’s events in Pyongyang and his visit to a military college were also the first public appearance by the young new leader Kim Jong-un himself in about two weeks. He looked healthy and confident in photos accompanying reports over four pages in the Tuesday’s edition of the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
South Korea’s intelligence agency had joined the fray of speculation over the sudden disappearance of Ri from state media since early September saying state elders may have raised an issue over her casual and cheerful demeanor portrayed in media.
“The analysis has been that there was concern over breach of discipline (by Ri) among North Korean elders, plus the speculation of pregnancy,” South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted the National Intelligence Service as reporting in a closed-door briefing to parliament.
North Korea broke the mystery surrounding a young woman who had been seen with Kim in July by saying she was the leader’s wife. The announcement itself was part of a trend that Kim has followed to break out of the secretive management style of his father.
North Korea’s state media have not disclosed when the two got married or whether they had any children.
Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie