North Korea's First Lady Has Vanished From Public View

Ri Sol Ju hasn't been seen in public in 7 months
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2016 4:08 PM CDT
North Korea's First Lady Has Vanished From Public View
Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju in 2012. Ri hasn't been seen in public for seven months, and no one is quite sure why.   (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service, File)

Somebody get Ri Sol Ju on a milk carton. UPI reports North Korea's first lady hasn't been seen in public since visiting a new department store in Pyongyang—seven months ago. Her husband, Kim Jong Un, has made 100 reported public appearances in 2016, but Ri was only seen with him three times and recently missed out on visits to soap and souvenir factories and an eye hospital. Ri's three public appearances in 2016 are a sharp decline from the 15 she made in 2014, 22 in 2013, and 18 in 2012. (She's vanished from the public eye before, including for four months in 2012 and for another few months in 2015; she only made seven public appearances last year.) Ri officially became North Korea's first lady in 2012, the Independent reports. According to the International Business Times, she and Kim have at least one child together, though that child is apparently a bit of a secret.

Some say Ri has been missing from the public eye because she is pregnant with another child. Others claim there is "disharmony" between her and Kim's family. Specifically, Ri may be clashing with Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, who was recently put in charge of the Propaganda and Agitation Department and is said to be the "power behind the throne," according to the Telegraph. There are also reports Ri was close to Kim's uncle, who Kim had executed in 2013 for treason. A professor who is an expert on North Korea's leadership tells the Telegraph "it is possible that Ri has not appeared in public because she is being closely guarded" due to reports of several failed attacks on Kim's life. (Maybe Ri will reappear to check out a North Korean zoo's smoking chimp.)

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