Mystery woman in North Korea
By Kim Young-jin
Speculation soared Monday over a woman seen in recent photographs seated or standing next to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with many speculating it could be his little-known sister or a romantic partner.
Pyongyang’s state television on Saturday carried images of Kim and a woman sporting short hair and a Moa-style suit sitting together during a performance in Pyongyang a day earlier.
On Sunday, footage was shown of Kim and a similarly-styled woman paying tribute to his late grandfather, country founder Kim Il-sung on the 18th anniversary of his death.
Though difficult to tell for certain whether they are indeed the same woman, many have suggested the photos are of Kim’s younger sister Yo-jong.
The siblings are the children of late leader Kim Jong-il and his consort, Japanese born-dancer Ko Yong-hui. While Yo-jong is thought to have been born around 1987, little else is known of her. Kim Jong-un took power after his father’s death in December.
Analysts say it would be natural for a sibling of the leader to be involved in political affairs given that the North’s system relies heavily on the ruling Kim family. Kim Jong-il’s sister, Kim Kyong-hui, long served as a close aid and is doing the same for the current leader.
Others say the woman could be his wife, with one local daily saying she was a state singer rumored to be his partner.
Some analysts rebutted the theory, noting the wives of North Korean leaders rarely accompany them during public events. Such a move, they said, would be difficult so early in Kim’s leadership. Guessing games have long been played on the up-and-coming generation of the ruling family. A gaunt woman standing behind Kim Jong-un during his father’s funeral was also thought to be either Yo-jong or the new leader’s wife. Yo-jong was also claimed to have been present when Kim Jong-chul, Kim Jong-il’s middle son, was spotted by a South Korean television crew at an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore last year.
Others have suggested the woman in question could be a former mistress of Kim Jong-il.