Wife of N. Korea's Kim is former singer: S. Korea media

SEOUL - The wife of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un is a former singer who caught the leader’s eye while she was giving a performance, South Korean media said Thursday after Pyongyang disclosed the marriage.

Official media in the secretive state revealed late Wednesday that a stylish young woman pictured accompanying Kim this month is his wife, Ri Sol-Ju.

It gave no details about her and did not say when they wed, but analysts said the mere fact that the couple were presented in public marked a new departure for the nation’s dynastic leadership.

The world has been scrambling for information about Jong-Un since he took over the impoverished but nuclear-armed state after his father Kim Jong-Il died suddenly last December.

He is believed to be in his late 20s, but even his exact age is unknown outside the North.

The International Crisis Group think-tank said in a report this week that Jong-Un appears to be fully in charge, despite speculation he would have to rely on close advisers because of his youth and inexperience.

But it said there was nothing to suggest he would take measures to improve the lot of his people amid severe food shortages, or reduce regional frictions over the North’s nuclear and missile programmes.

In public, Jong-Un has presented a relaxed and confident image in an apparent attempt to emphasise his readiness to rule.

In contrast to his late father, he has cultivated an outgoing and informal style – hugging soldiers, posing for photos with troops and linking arms with women.

Neither his father nor grandfather Kim Il-Sung were ever pictured with their wives at public events.

But the disclosure of Jong-Un’s marriage is partly to show “he is not a child", said Chang Yong-Suk, of the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

“If he went around alone, people would look down on him as a young lad, but with his wife present, he could show he is the head of the family and also an adult,” Chang told AFP.

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