Kim Jong-un is a man of many unique titles (son of Kim Jong-il and the third member of his family to serve as ruler of North Korea), but he’s also a person who goes through many of the same experiences as the rest of us. This has included attending school (albeit abroad in Switzerland) and even marriage. But being the First Lady of North Korea doesn’t provide the power that one would expect. Instead, Kim Jong-un’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, has become a mystery even amongst the Hermit Kingdom. She has been rarely seen in public, and the individuality that she exhibited during them has all but disappeared in almost ten years of marriage.
And while it’s difficult to confirm anything from the notoriously secretive nation, rumors and speculation among the intelligence community have addresses at least a few questions about Kim Jong-un’s bride. While chunks of her past remain an enigma, others have been illuminated. Some of the most unusual and surprising conditions for her role in the ruling family concern how she’s seen by the people, the bizarre events and circumstances that she is sent to deal with, how little power and freedom she seems to have over her own life, and just how traditionalist and practically medieval some of the practices surrounding her are. As with many stories that come out of North Korea, they range from the strange to the horrifying. Here are fifteen rules that Ri Sol-ju is rumored to have been issued by her husband, Kim Jong-un.
15 She Had To Take An Entirely New Name
As with most marriages, one of the spouses took a name change along with the ceremony. Unlike most marriages, this meant changing their entire name. But that’s reportedly one of the rules that the (new) Ri Sol-ju had to contend with when she married Kim Jong-un. Most of her past has been purposefully kept hidden away from the masses, although a few details about her past have leaked out. Nevertheless, her actual given name and even her year of birth remain a mystery, after Kim Jong-un announced his marriage to her nine years ago. It’s almost bizarre compared to the usual attitude in western culture on the subject (ranging from “if you want to” to “I hate the DMV though”), and a strange line for Ri Sol-ju to have to take.
14 She Was Forced To Hide Her Pregnancies
Ri Sol-ju has lived a sheltered life since she became a part of the ruling class, but that level of security and isolation only amplified when she became pregnant. Ri Sol-ju disappeared from the public eye for months. While some feared the worst, the few pictures that surfaced of her and reports of meeting with her indicated that she was pregnant and purposefully trying to avoid the public eye. This sort of backfired though, as it just raised more questions as soon as the possibility of an heir was broached. Ultimately, her pregnancies have all been used as an excuse to keep her hidden away… but the question remains whether that trend and behavior will continue now that she’s reportedly had a son.
13 She Is Not Allowed To See Her Parents
Ri Sol-ju wasn’t the average citizen of North Korea before she married into the ruling family. In fact, her parents are actually well-known within the capital. Her mother is the head of a gynecology ward of a hospital, and her father is a professor in the city. It’s through her family that she met Kim, as her uncle was actually one of his military advisors. But since becoming the First Lady of North Korea, Ri Sol-ju hasn’t had much time or opportunity to see her family. Some reports have even come to the conclusion that she hasn’t seen her parents in years by this point. It’s unknown if they’ve even gotten the chance to meet their grandchildren. The restrictions places by Kim Jong-un and his government are shocking in their pettiness sometimes.
12 She's Been Forced Onto Mourning Tours
Going on national trips and tours of their home nation is a classic tradition for leaders all around the world. But while most other leaders make a case to visit scenes of tragedy or accomplishment (with the occasional stop for tribute and honors), Kim Jong-un and Ri Sol-ju have been more commonly seen trips that mourn past leaders more than honor the current state of affairs. Some of the only national trips that the couple has made together and in public have been to statues memorializing Kim Jong-un’s grandfather or his father’s burial site. As with the few other instances of seeing Ri Sol-ju in public, it’s a weird and grave place to bring his wife and First Lady. It just seems like a hard thing to go through, this being some of her only exposure to the outside world in years.
11 She Has Her Hair And Dress Style Dictated For Her
In the early years of her marriage, Ri Sol-ju stood out as a particularly unique figure from North Korea. She made wore a personal broach instead of the traditional loyalist one, rocked western beauty products and accessories, and even had the audacity to wear pants instead of a dress. Side note: Seriously, North Korea? Anyway, this seemed like a way to possibly change the precedent in the nation when it comes to women, but it didn’t take long for the rules to take their toll on her. Her wardrobe has slowly transformed into more conservative apparel over the years, and her more individualistic touches have been significantly toned down. She’s lost that little bit of freedom that comes from expressing yourself through your look, and that’s terribly depressing.
10 Kim Jong-un Doesn’t Let Her (Or Their Kids) Out In Public
Her lack of presence in the public eye has kept the world from really knowing much about Ri Sol-ju and the family she’s built alongside Kim Jong-un. And it can be surprising just how much it’s developed over the years in private, away from the public eye. The couple actually has three children. Almost no details have been released about their children, and none of them have been photographed. It has been speculated that the couple has only recently been able to have a son, with their first two children being girls. And considering how power is passed down in North Korea specifically from father to son, it makes sense for Jong-un to forbid public exposure to his daughters and limit his wife’s time outside of his palace.
9 She Gets Left Behind At Public Events
Despite being the First Lady for a nation that considers personal pride as one of their main ideals, it’s pretty shocking how little the world has gotten to see of Ri Sol-ju. But her absence was noticeable even at the large-scale events that would regularly make for great press fodder with the people. At concerts, Kim Jong-un has been spotted with other women (speculated to be his sister, Kim Yo-jung), instead of bringing his wife. And at other shows, his guest of honor hasn’t been his lovely bride but rather his weapons designers, which is… odd. He knows those guys shouldn’t be treated like Tony Stark is, right? But those are the kind of events you’d expect to see Ri Sol-ju, but nope. Nothing. She’s not allowed to go to them.
8 She Was Forced Into It By Kim Jong-il
Before Kim Jong-un rose to power, it was his father Kim Jong-il that the rest of the world had to contend with. A hawkish leader with a militaristic streak, Kim Jong-il helped shape and define the way the rest of the world came to see the nation and its royal family. He was also a bit of a control freak, demanding the nation adhere to his specific and strict guidelines. Following a stroke in 2008, Kim Jong-il became much more possessive and assertive with his son and heir’s life, and it’s been reported that he essentially ordered Kim Jong-un to marry Ri Sol-ju. She didn’t get much of a say in the matter either, and the two were promptly married the next year. This country sounds more and more like Game of Thrones every day.
7 She Is Forced To Hang Out With Dennis Rodman
Even if you’re married to the leader of one of the most unstable nations in the world, finding out that you’re going to have Dennis Rodman visiting you must be a strange thing to realize. The former NBA star has stayed in the news mostly due to his strange and controversial friendship with the family. Kim Jong-un (and his father before him) were big fans of basketball and the Chicago Bulls in particular. So Dennis Rodman has actually become a frequent visitor to the nation. And for Kim Jong-un’s wife, that must be the oddest house guest. Imagine if your significant other had an old family friend that just showed up sometimes, and that friend was also Dennis Rodman. That’s just such a weird thing to be forced to do.
6 She's Hidden Away Even From The Rest Of North Korea
The people of North Korea love their leaders, to the point where the cult of personality that’s developed around the ruling family for the last half-century has become one of the most committed in the world. The general populace of the nation has been conditioned to love their leaders, so it’s weird to not see them get the chance to love their First Lady. Ri Sol-ju has been kept out of the public eye for a variety of stated reasons, disappearing for years at a time before being seen again by the rest of the globe. It’s a practice that Kim Jong-un picked up from his father, who reportedly had a whole host of wives and consorts that never saw the light of day. But it’s a strange and scary practice to still preach.
5 She's Specifically Ignored By The Press
The times that we’ve gotten the chance to see Ri Sol-ju, it’s always been as an afterthought. The press in North Korea (which is state-controlled to skew facts and events in favor of the dictatorship) have often looked past Ri Sol-ju completely, never letting the spotlight fade from their great leader. It seems as if she’s treated more like a prop than an actual person, oftentimes being pushed out of frame or obscured by the crowd of people that accompany Kim Jong-un whenever he goes out in public. It’s strange to consider that level of security and restraint, especially from a Western perspective that is about to turn another Royal Wedding into an international event. But her press has never given Ri Sol-ju any attention, even taking years to announce their marriage.
4 She Is Barred From Leaving North Korea
Obviously, Ri Sol-ju had a life before she became the wife to one of the most talked about men in the world. But it seems like she was actually a bit more adventurous than she gets to be now. Stories from sources around the world have indicated that Ri Sol-ju actually has left the country a few times before she was ever married to the dictator. It’s been reported that she studied abroad in China for a period of time, and even once visited the neighboring nation of South Korea once as a cheerleader (seriously where’s that Bring It On sequel?). But since becoming the first Lady of the Hermit Nation, Ri Sol-ju hasn’t gotten the chance to leave the country and see any other part of the world for almost a full decade.
3 She Was Forced To Have Babies Until She Had A Son
In a move that sounds practically medieval, Ri Sol-ju has become forced to commit completely and thoroughly to giving her husband a male heir. The pair were married in 2009, and reports of their first child being born were made as early as 2010. But since then, Ri Sol-ju has had two other children. But reports hold that her first two (both girls) weren’t found to be satisfactory for the leader. With the reports that their third child is a boy, hopefully, some of the pressure will be lifted off of Ri Sol-ju. Not nearly all of it, but at least some. None of the children have been seen outside of the palace, and even only a few pictures of Ri Sol-ju being pregnant have surfaced online. Even their long-awaited son has only been hinted out in leaked pictures.
2 She Has Been Given Less Freedom The Longer She's Been There
Ri Sol-ju married Kim Jong-un almost ten years ago, and in that time, her apparent influence and position within North Korea have continued to diminish. When she was first seen by the public, she stood out against many of the other women in North Korea. Little bits of style here and there, with a willingness to go against the cultural norm in terms of fashion and style. But as the years have gone on and the times she’s been seen in public have diminished, it seems that much of her freedoms have evaporated too. She’s been seen more often adhering to Kim’s choices in terms of clothing, and those flashes of uniqueness have disappeared. It’s a terrifying rule to consider her living under, especially as she tried to raise her children in an increasingly uncertain world.
1 She Was Forced To Watch A Mickey Mouse Concert
Despite over fifty years of extended tension with the United States of America, the ruling class of North Korea has always had an obsession with western culture and entertainment. That extends to Disney movies because apparently, Jiminy Cricket surpasses hate. But even stranger, North Korea has put on tribute shows in the past in a... let’s just say underwhelming manner. But these are the kind of events that Ri Sol-ju has been spotted at. It’s such a strange thing to make a state visit, and even stranger to force the First Lady to come to that one of all events. This is pretty bizarre and difficult to wrap one's head around, even for North Korea.