Change in North Korea?

There have been quite a lot of things happening in North Korea lately. Things that have never happened before. Many experts on North Korean issues are saying that these events are signs of change within North Korea that may lead to reform. Others argue that these changes will not be enough to open up North Korea. Of course, I can’t offer any answers to these debates and it is not OneKorea’s purpose to do so. But instead, I’d like to take a look at some of these changes so that you might be able to form an opinion of your own.

A Relatable Leader

Since Kim Jong Un succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, to be the leader of the world’s most isolated nation in the world, he’s been doing things a bit differently from the way his father liked things done. For one, he introduced his wife to the world. With Kim Jong Il, the leader’s wives were never officially revealed to the world. We may have had some information about them but you would never see them strutting around the country on the arm of their husband. The previous Kim was well known for his secrecy when it came to his personal life. However, this has not been the same for Kim Jong Un so far. We have been seeing Kim Jong Un and his wife in the news quite often lately as they visit various sites together hand in hand such as amusement parks and preschools.

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In the News – Kim Jong-un Favors Cuban Heels Just Like His Dad

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In the News – Kim Jong-un Favors Cuban Heels Just Like His Dad

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front right) wears Cuban heels during a visit to an amusement park in Pyongyang with his wife Ri Sol-ju (front left) on Wednesday. /[North] Korean Central News Agency-Yonhap

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front right) wears Cuban heels during a visit to an amusement park in Pyongyang with his wife Ri Sol-ju (front left) on Wednesday. /[North] Korean Central News Agency-Yonhap

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been spotted sporting Cuban heels like his late father Kim Jong-il.

In photos from the North Korean state media of Kim visiting an amusement park in Pyongyang with his wife Ri Sol-ju last week, the chubby leader’s shoes look designed to make him seem taller.

Kim, who is thought to be 168 cm tall, apparently wears 5-cm lifts.

Original Article

In the News – N. Korean leader Kim goes on outing after introducing wife

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In the News – N. Korean leader Kim goes on outing after introducing wife

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has attended a music performance together with his recently unveiled wife, state media said Friday, their first reported outing since the wife’s identity was revealed to the outside world for the first time earlier this week.

The wife has been a focus of speculation since earlier this month when state media began showing her closely accompanying the young leader during a series of public appearances without identifying who she was.

The North’s media identified her as the leader’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, on Wednesday. Seoul’s intelligence agency said the 23-year-old Ri, who is believed to have been educated in music and sang in a national orchestra, married Kim in 2009 and may have a child with the leader.

On Friday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the couple viewed a music performance by the music band of the country’s police force Internal Security Forces held in Ponghwa Art Theatre in Pyongyang a day earlier.

The singing and dance performance was held to celebrate victory in the Korean War, the North Korean holiday that marks the July 27 truce in 1953 that ended the 1950-53 conflict.

“The performers sang of the undying feats of Kim Il Sung, who wrought miracles of history by defeating the most atrocious U.S. imperialists in the war,” KCNA reported.

Kim expressed great satisfaction over the performance, which extolled the country’s Songun, or military-first, revolution, it said.

Original Article 

In the News – Seoul Seeks Clues on New Mrs. Kim

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In the News – Seoul Seeks Clues on New Mrs. Kim

SEOUL—Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Eun, may have visited South Korea in 2005 as part of a singing group, authorities in the city that hosted the group said Thursday as South Koreans scrambled to learn more about her.

Videos and photos show a teenage girl who looks like Ms. Ri as a featured singer in a traditional music group that was part of a broader North Korean contingent attending an international track and field championship in the Seoul suburb of Incheon.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said a girl named Ri Sol Ju was on the list of North Koreans who visited Incheon for the September 2005 event. But late Thursday, they were still trying to verify that the woman is Mr. Kim’s newly revealed wife.

About two weeks after Ms. Ri began to be seen in pictures with Mr. Kim, North Korea’s state-run media mentioned her by name for the first time on Wednesday and identified her as his wife. The North Korean media gave no other information, however, and said nothing more about her on Thursday.

South Korean media, government agencies and independent analysts of North Korea spent the day scouring old North Korean media accounts and records of North Korean visitors to the South over the past decade for references to Ms. Ri.

The emergence of Ms. Ri does nothing to alter the fractious state of relations between the two Koreas. North Korea has been angry at the South’s government since President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008 and ended a decade-old policy of few-questions-asked economic assistance, costing North Korea hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It staged two military attacks against the South in 2010, and its state media vilifies President Lee almost every day.

Her presence does create a new dynamic in the power structure of the Kim family regime, which has maintained control of North Korea for three generations and concentrated attention almost entirely on the male leaders.

It also changes the image of Mr. Kim, showing North Koreans worried about his young age that he’s got a stable home life and people outside the country that he’s got different ideas about how he appears than his reclusive father did.

Kim Gyu-ri, who runs an image-consulting firm in Seoul, said Ms. Ri is getting mostly positive attention in South Korea, in part because she’s displayed a fashion sensibility. “With this introduction, people will pay some more attention to what happens there, especially young people,” Ms. Kim said.

A woman named Ri Sol Ju who looks similar to Mr. Kim’s wife also appeared as a solo singer on a televised concert on North Korean TV last year, portions of which have been posted to YouTube.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that a check of its archives turned up two instances in which a young girl named Ri Sol Ju attended inter-Korean events in the North in 2003 and 2004.

The woman with the singers who visited Incheon in 2005, called the North Young Student Cooperation Group, was 17, according to Yonhap.

Kim Yun-hee, an Incheon city official who spent a week as a guide for the girls’ choir, said they had given a favorable impression on stage and off.

“At first they were cautious at what we said or asked, but later we conversed comfortably,” Ms. Kim said. “At the time I had a digital camera, and they were amazed at it. Though they couldn’t express their interest too much since a North Korean security official was in the bus too, but they liked it very much when I took pictures of them.”

Visits by North Korean groups to South Korea gained frequency after the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, but they tailed off after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon for the first time in late 2006.

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In the News – N. Korean leader’s wife visited S. Korea in 2005: spy agency

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In the News – N. Korean leader’s wife visited S. Korea in 2005: spy agency

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) — The wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited South Korea in 2005 as part of a cheering squad for an athletic event, a South Korean lawmaker said Thursday, citing information provided by the South’s spy agency.

The revelation came one day after North Korean media identified the woman recently pictured flanking Kim as his wife, Ri Sol-ju.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) confirmed local media reports claiming Ri had visited the South Korean city of Incheon in 2005, Rep. Jung Chung-rai of the main opposition Democratic United Party told reporters after a parliamentary interpellation session attended by Won Sei-hoon, the director of the NIS.

Her visit was during an Asian athletics competition held in Incheon in September of that year, he said.

It is rare for South and North Koreans to visit each other’s countries, as they must receive special permission from their respective governments. The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

NIS officials told lawmakers they believe Ri was born in 1989 and married the North Korean leader in 2009, according to Jung. The leader, whose age has been disputed due to the secretive nature of the reclusive regime, was confirmed to have been born in January 1984, the NIS officials said in the closed-door session.

The spy agency interpreted the North’s disclosure of the first lady as an attempt to give Kim a “stable image,” according to Jung.

News reports have often cited sources familiar with the communist regime as saying Kim lacks the support of his people due to his young age and lack of experience.

The young leader inherited the military-backed regime following the death of his father and longtime leader Kim Jong-il last December.

NIS officials also confirmed reports that Ri is a singer for the North’s Unhasu Orchestra, according to Jung. Details of her background have yet to emerge, but she is believed to have been born into an ordinary family and studied vocal music in China, he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Saenuri Party quoted NIS officials as saying North Korea’s former military chief Ri Yong-ho was dismissed earlier this month because of his “uncooperative attitude” toward Kim’s drive to tighten his grip on the military.

North Korea announced Ri’s dismissal last week in a surprise move that fueled speculation about a possible power struggle in Pyongyang.

Asked to explain the “uncooperative attitude,” Yoon said it was related to a generation shift within the 1.2-million-strong armed forces as Kim Jong-un moves to transfer control of the economy from the military to the government.

The lawmaker also quoted NIS officials as saying Ri appeared to have been “purged,” based on a July 21 re-run on North Korean state television of a visit to an orchard by Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un last year. Scenes of Ri, who accompanied the Kims on the trip, were deleted from the clip, he said.

On Kim Jong-un’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Song-thaek, both powerful figures in the communist regime, NIS officials said they appear to be strengthening their roles as the young leader’s guardians by respectively providing mental support and policy advice.

It is also the spy agency’s assessment that the North’s three-generation hereditary power succession has been completed with Kim’s promotions to the top levels of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party, government and military.

Following Ri’s dismissal, the North announced its leader had been given the title of marshal, the highest functioning military rank.

The NIS noted it took three years for former leader Kim Jong-il to complete his inheritance of power from his own father, the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung.

Original Article