The wife of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has been missing from the public eye for almost nine months, sparking wild speculation about the mystery of where she could be.
Ri Sol-ju was last seen during an appearance alongside Kim at the Samjiyon Theatre in Pyongyang during a Lunar New Year performance in January.
But theories as to why she has disappeared have started swirling after she was missing from a military parade on October 10, an event she historically attended.
An anonymous source told Daily NK there were three rumours as to why Ri has mysteriously been missing from public events.
The source suggested Ri could possibly be taking care of Kim’s aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, due to her being ill – with the rumour being spread by people who have “quick access to information”.
Daily NK reports Kim has particular affection for his aunt after her husband was executed.
The source said another speculation about Ri’s disappearance suggests she does not want to attend events over fears for her health, with her making her last public appearance right before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the globe.
Experts in South Korea suggest that she is not attending public gatherings over social distancing concerns and fears people will not wear masks appropriately.
The source told the Daily NK others speculated she had stepped back from the public eye to concentrate on educating her young daughter, who was reportedly born in 2013.
Ri Sol-ju missing last year
It’s not the first time Ri has vanished from significant events in North Korea.
Almost a year ago to date, speculation was rife after Ri had not made an appearance for four months.
In October 2019, she was seen alongside her husband at the Mount Kumgang tourist complex for the first time since June, prompting speculation she had just given birth.
There was no indication Ri and Kim were expecting a child, but North Korean expert Markus Bell told The Sun it would be nothing surprising for news of a pregnancy to be shrouded in secrecy.
The International Business Times reported in 2016 she made her first public appearance after vanishing for seven months.
That absence also drew pregnancy speculation while others suggested she and the dictator had a falling out.
Little is known about Ri, who is believed to be 31 and to have three children with Kim, at least one of them a daughter.
Ri, a former star singer, emerged in 2012 and has been regarded as one of the most high-profile women in the isolated, deeply patriarchal nation, but with a limited role as Kim's stylish, coy wife.
In April 2018, she was given the title of First Lady after previously being referred to as “comrade” by the North’s state media.
Analysts said at the time her promotion was likely to be part of an effort to paint North Korea as a "normal state" as it prepared for summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump.
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