Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
As rumors circulated in various media this week about the identity of Kim Jong Un’s wife, Daily NK released the entire version of Mother of Great Military-First Korea on 12 July (Thursday). The film is about the activities of Kim Jong Un’s mother, Ko Yong Hui (Ko Yo’ng-hu’i), who is identified under the alias Ri U’n-sil. In the film Ko attends various military and economic inspections with Kim Jong Il. She is also seen riding a horse with KJI, preparing food and handing out gold watches. Toward the end of the film, a voice identified as Ko’s can be heard delivering a birthday speech on an audio track. While she speaks, still images of Ko caring for and tutoring Kim Jong Un are shown and then transition into film footage of Kim Jong Un from 2010 and 2011. Ko is depicted in the film as a member of the Kim Family to be revered, along with KJI’s mother Kim Jong Suk and his paternal grandmother Kang Pan Sok. The film also links Kim Jong Un’s outgoing personality (i.e., “the good heart of the third son”) to Ko, not KJI. The film is also available via YouTube.
Daily NK summarizes the film:
This documentary, which was produced in 2011 by an arm of the Chosun Workers’ Party Central Committee, was screened for senior Party cadre review in May, at which time it was leaked to a group based in Japan.
The film contains footage and photos of Koh Young Hee in the period following the 100-day mourning period for the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994. Throughout the 1990s, Koh accompanied Kim Jong Il as the de facto ‘first lady’ during his guidance visits to military, industrial and cultural sites.
The narration (unfortunately, no subtitles are available) propagates the idea that Koh, who died in Paris in 2004, represented a powerful continuance of a tradition established by Kang Ban Seok (Kim Il Sung’s mother) and Kim Jong Suk (Kim Jong Il’s mother). Forging her image as a ‘Great Mother’ of the nation is intended to strengthen Kim Jong Eun’s legitimacy as a great leader of pure Mt. Baekdu blood.
On 6 July and 8 July, Kim Jong Un made two public appearances accompanied by a woman who is most likely his wife. The same woman joined him during a visit to Kyongsang Kindergarten, reported by DPRK state media on 15 July (Sunday). The identity of the woman who accompanied KJU, despite a hodgepodge of speculation and rumors, remains unknown.
Other than being seen in the shadows crossing the path of Jang Song Taek during part of Kim Jong Il’s funeral, KJU’s wife may have attended a visit by the DPRK’s central leadership to the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun on Kim Jong Il’s birthday in February 2012. As DPRK elites lined up to pay their respects to a marble KJI icon, several rows behind Kim Jong Un, in a line-up consisting of KJI’s former aides in the National Defense Commission and Personal Secretariat was KJI’s 5th consort and secretary, Kim Ok. Standing to the right (Kim Ok’s left) was a woman who may, or may not, be KJU’s wife, standing at the end. The woman was literally out of place and this was the only queue with an uneven number of participants, observed on the Korean Central Television [KCTV] film. This politically choreographed asymmetry prevented this mystery woman from being completely filmed by KCTV cameras, seen in the images below:
The wife theory attracting the most attention is that KJU is married to Hyon Song-wol (a.k.a. Han Song-wo’l), a graduate of Pyongyang University of Music and a former member of the Poch’o’nbo Electronic Ensemble. Kim Jong Un and Hyon were alleged to have been in a relationship which was broken off because Kim Jong Il did not approve. According to Sankei Shimbun, Hyon left the Poch’o’nbo group in 2006 and married an officer of the Korean People’s Army [KPA], but after KJI’s death in Decmeber 2011 she resumed her relationship with Kim Jong Un.
The other theory on Kim Jong Un’s wife, which preexisted rumors of a marriage to Hyon, is that he was married in 2010 and his wife is a 27-year old graduate student at Kim Il Sung University, originally from Ch’o’ngjin, North Hamgyo’ng Province. DPRK leadership expert Cho’ng So’ng-chang (Jeong Seong-jang) told NoCut News: “By tacitly emphasizing that 1st Secretary Kim is a leader who is not single, but already married and with a wife, is aiming to make a frontal breakthrough in the age issue, his biggest weakness, and implant an image of a steady leader.” Interestingly, according to Cho’ng, the mother of this KJU wife is a section chief of gynecology unit at a Ch’o’ngin hospital. On 11 July KCNA published a piece that said the country “has taken steps conducive to the protection and improvement of women’s reproductive health.”