The world is asking where Kim Jong-un’s wife is since she was last seen in public seven months ago.
Ri Sol-ju, the First Lady of North Korea, was last seen on a tour of a new commercial district and health complex in Pyongyang on March 28, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap News.
Her disappearance has led some to speculate that the North Korean dictator’s wife is either pregnant or has fallen out of favour with the party. Her absence has been described as out of the ordinary by one anonymous North Korean observer.
“Ri showed up at public events every two months last year, but has not appeared in public for over seven months this year. That’s quite extraordinary. Some sources speculate Ri’s disappearance may be linked to a check on her activities by Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong.”
The site reported that in 2012, she accompanied her husband to events 18 times and in 2013 she was there 15 times. However, in 2015 she made seven appearances and in 2016 only a total of three to date. On the contrary, Jong-un has made frequent appearances touring the country and also hosted the country’s first party congress in 36 years in May.
Experts monitoring activities in Pyongyang surmise that Sol-ju may be on bad terms with the leader’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong. It is believed that Yo-jong, who was put in charge of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation Department last year, wields the power behind the leadership.
According to Asia-Pacific news site The Diplomat, she took over for him briefly in 2014 while her brother received medical treatment. In early 2014, Yo-jong was officially labeled as a senior official of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Other rumors regarding the First Lady’s disappearance indicate marriage trouble between the power couple. Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University who specializes in North Korean activities, told The Telegraph:
“There are possible reasons, including that she is pregnant or that there is some sort of problem between the two of them. There have also been reports of instability in Pyongyang and even of several attempted attacks, including by factions in the North Korean military, against Kim last year. It is possible that Ri has not appeared in public because she is being closely guarded.”
Shigemura also commented on his younger siblings influence and said “that while Mr. Kim lacks political ability, she is far more adept at the sort of maneuvering that is required to keep him in power, so that is the task she has taken on.”
Ri Sol-ju, who was introduced as First Lady in 2012, last disappeared from public view in 2012. After former U.S. basketball player Dennis Rodman visited North Korea in 2013, he revealed during an interview that she was pregnant with a baby girl.
However, Jong-un has known to have been merciless towards those close to him before. In early August, the leader of the military state executed a high-ranking official who supposedly fell asleep in a meeting.