About the Author
View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, has appeared in state media for the first time in 2015 after being pictured at a football match at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang Monday.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) article which accompanied the image of Monday’s event mentioned Ri only once and very briefly.
“He (Kim) appeared at the stadium auditorium with Ri Sol Ju,” the article said, before detailing the outcome of the match and listing the other North Korean officials attending the event alongside the couple.
Although Ri has been absent from public view for extended periods of time before, her most recent absence, lasting for 117 days, was her longest since being revealed as Kim’s wife in 2012. Ri’s previous longest absence lasted for a total of 91 days between June and September in 2014.
During one of Ri’s previous disappearances she gave birth to Kim Jong Un’s first child, a daughter, but there is no current evidence to suggest that her nearly four-month absence was due to a similar reason.
Absences from public view have been more common for Ri over time and data from the NK News Leadership Tracker shows that her disappearances from state media coverage have increased both in length and number.
According to the Leadership Tracker, Ri first became visible on state media in 2012, making 21 appearances during the year and 22 appearances in 2013, while in 2014 she only appeared a total of 16 times.
With her first appearance in 2015 coming four months into the year, it may be an indicator that this trend will continue.
“One possible reason for Ri’s declining public prominence is that her presence is simply not needed as much as it once was. Ri was initially shown in public alongside Kim to build an image of him as a mature, family man and bolster his perceived leadership credentials,” NK News’ director of intelligence, John Grisafi, said on April 8 when analyzing her recent absences.
Data from the Leadership Tracker also shows that Ri is rarely pictured outside of Pyongyang, with the vast majority of her public appearances occurring in the capital.
Featured Image: KCNA