The wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared on state television Monday looking heavily pregnant and fuelling expectations of an imminent addition to the ruling Kim dynasty.
Ri Sol-ju was shown standing by her husband at a sombre memorial service to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Kim’s father and former leader, Kim Jong-il.
Ms. Ri, who caused quite a stir when she emerged on the national scene back in July, had swapped her normal designer outfit for a funereal black hanbok, the traditional Korean dress.
But even the high-waisted, loose-fit dress couldn’t hide a visibly swollen belly, that was swiftly picked up by the South Korean media.
“Ri appeared to be in the late stages of pregnancy,” Yonhap news agency said, while the Chosun Ilbo newspaper on its website predicted that birth “was not far away.”
The fact that Kim Jong-un even had a wife was only revealed in July when pictures emerged of a young woman accompanying the new young leader at official events.
A terse statement from Pyongyang’s state television that month confirmed her identity and the fact that the couple were married.
According to intelligence reports cited by the South Korean media, the couple were married in 2009 and already have one child, although that has never been confirmed.
Rumours started to circulate when she suddenly dropped from public view in September, only to reappear a month later wearing a long coat in photos that hinted at a possible pregnancy.
Ms. Ri’s state media profile marks a departure for North Korea whose intensely secretive regime has previously kept the private lives of its rulers tightly under wraps.
North Korea unveiled the embalmed body of Kim Jong-il, still in his trademark khaki jumpsuit, on the anniversary of his death Monday as mourning mixed with pride over a recent satellite launch that was a long-held goal of the late authoritarian leader.
The body of Kim Jong-il lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il-sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace. Kim Jong-il is presented lying beneath a red blanket, a spotlight shining on his face in a room suffused in red.
Wails echoed through the chilly hall as a group of North Korean women sobbed into the sashes of their traditional Korean dresses as they bowed before his body. The hall bearing the glass coffin was opened to select visitors — including The Associated Press — for the first time since his death.
North Korea also unveiled Kim Jong-il’s yacht and his armoured train carriage, where he is said to have died. Among the personal belongings featured in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.