Tokyo, Dec. 17: Television footage of the wife of Kim Jung-un, the leader of North Korea, suggests that Pyongyang may be close to making a happy announcement.
Pictures aired by North Korean state media showed Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju — apparently heavily pregnant — paying their respects at a memorial service for Kim Jong-il, his father and predecessor.
The announcement of the birth of an heir in the world’s only communist dynasty would lift the nation’s spirits on the one-year anniversary of the death of Kim, who is still revered in North Korea as the Dear Leader.
Ri was pictured wearing traditional mourning clothing, but appeared to be pregnant. State media has yet to release an official statement on the condition of the nation's first lady.
There was speculation in October that Ri might be pregnant after she failed to appear in public for 50 days, triggering speculation that she might have fallen foul of the old guard in the North Korean regime for dressing too fashionably or failing to be sufficiently respectful to conservative members of the party or government.
An alternative theory was that she was pregnant.
Formerly the lead singer with the Ponchonbo Electronic Ensemble, Ri was only officially unveiled as Kim’s wife in July, although she had previously been pictured accompanying the “Young General” on his visits to state-run farms, military units and at official ceremonies.
Later in the month, a South Korean government source was quoted in the Chosun Ilbo newspaper as saying that Ri’s face looked puffy and her stomach was “visibly bulging”.
“She is wearing a long coat but cannot hide her protruding abdomen,” the unnamed source told the paper, adding that Ri appears to be about three months pregnant. If the speculation is correct and the child is a boy, he is likely to be groomed to take over the dynastic regime that was founded by Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, at the end of World War II.
North Korea unveiled the embalmed body of Kim Jong Il, still in his trademark khaki jumpsuit, on the anniversary of his death on Monday as mourning mixed with pride over a recent satellite launch that was a longheld goal of the late authoritarian leader.