In pictures that have been released by the North Korean government, she is seen smiling and clapping at a concert on one of the country’s biggest holidays
The wife of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been seen in public for the first time, at a concert on one of the country’s biggest holidays, in more than a year.
Ri Sol Ju had been pictured sitting with her husband at a concert that was marking one of the nation’s biggest holidays, the Day of the Shining Star, which celebrates the birthday of his predecessor and father, Kim Jong Il, on Tuesday.
In pictures that were released by state media, the couple are seen smiling together and applauding a performance at Mansudae Art Theatre in the capital city, Pyongyang.
This comes after North Korea, which is yet to have recorded a single case of the coronavirus, is expected to be receiving nearly two million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. According to the vaccine-sharing programme, known as COVAX, the Asian nation has been allocated 1,992,000 doses of the vaccine for the first half of 2021.
Last seen in public in January of last year at an event for the Lunar New Year holiday, Ri’s absence since then has sparked speculation over her health and a possible pregnancy.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told the country’s lawmakers on Tuesday that Ri appeared to have stayed away from outside activities to head off COVID-19 infections but was “playing well with their kids”.
The NIS believes that Ri and Kim have three children, but little is publicly known about the trio.
North Korea has not yet confirmed any cases of COVID-19, but the NIS has said that an outbreak could not be ruled out as the nation had active exchanges with China, where the coronavirus first emerged, before closing their border early last year.
Unlike several previous events in the country, nobody in the photographs published by the official ruling Worker’s Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun were wearing masks or maintaining social distancing measures.
The newspaper also reported that Kim Jong Un visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, which houses the embalmed bodies of his father and grandfather, to lay wreaths on the anniversary.
This comes after 180 soldiers in the North Korean army had reportedly been killed by COVID-19 back in early March of 2020, leaving the world to wonder the true extent of damage caused by the outbreak in the country.
On the same day, NIS accused North Korean computer hackers of trying to steal information about coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
But the service denied a South Korean MP’s claim that vaccine maker Pfizer was targeted.
Ha Tae-keung, a member of the parliament’s intelligence committee, told reporters NIS revealed in a private briefing that North Korea hacked Pfizer to obtain COVID-19 vaccine technology.
Mr Ha stood by his comments despite a denial by NIS, saying the wording about Pfizer “was so clear that I didn’t even ask about that verbally” during the briefing.