The 32-year-old wife of North Korea’s supreme leader was last seen in public in January 2020. The wife and mother of Kim Jong-un’s children, called Ri Sol-ju, may have decided to avoid public engagements over the fear of the coronavirus contagion. North Korean experts reporting in NK News think Ri mysteriously vanished because of the pandemic.
Hong Min, director of the North Korean research division at Korea Insitute for National Unification, speaking to NK News said: “Her disappearance could be due to Covid-19.
“As a mother with young children, participating in public activities risks potential infection.
“Even Kim Jong Un went on the lowest number of on-site guidances in the past year.”
Hong added: “Also, the change in the foreign affairs situation could have affected Ri’s disappearance.
“When there were multiple summits with other countries, Ri’s role, a role universally expected as a first lady, was on the rise.
“But now, diplomacy has all stalled.”
She was last seen when she joined her husband at a Lunar New Year performance at a theatre in Pyongyang in January 2020.
Ri is from Chongjin in North Korea’s northern Hamgyong Province and married Kim Jong-un in 2009.
The couple was last seen sitting next to the North Korean dictator’s 74-year-old aunt Kim Kyong-hui.
Professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University Lim Eul-Chul said: “North Korea has already emphasised enough how Kim Jong Un is a normal country leader who brings his wife to events.
“But now, for Pyongyang, economic problems and real achievements not formalities or images are most important and urgent.”
The Daily NK news outlet reported in October that there are three “rumours” spreading through North Korea about the whereabouts of Ri.
She may be helping Kim Kyung Hee, the auntie of Kim Jong-un, who is in ill health.
The second rumour is that she is helping to educate her young daughter, named Ju-ae.
The third rumour is that she may be suffering from a health issue.
This has led to rumours that she has contracted coronavirus.