Donald Trump's frightening comments on the North Korean nuclear situation Tuesday have prompted renewed interest in the secretive lives of the DPRK's (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) people and government. The country's leader especially has taken measures to safeguard his personal information, but one detail is known for certain: Kim Jong-Un is married.
Trump significantly escalated the rhetoric regarding the potential threat of nuclear attack by Kim and the DPRK. "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen," Trump said on Tuesday at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Since it's looking more and more like there might be serious armed conflict with the small, intriguing nation, some people are wondering about the people who have the most influence on the DPRK's leader.
Kim does in fact have a wife, though very little information about her is publicly accessible. According to the New York Post, Ri Sol-Ju's age, history, and even her name have never been formally confirmed by the North Korean government, but she has been photographed with Kim several times over the years. Ri may have been a former singer or cheerleader, but it's nearly impossible to confirm her true identity.
As Kim's wife, she has a tendency to disappear from the public eye for months at a time, indicating that she's not an outwardly important member of the government. It's unclear whether this is simply a cultural distinction — other countries often don't celebrate the first lady role the same way the U.S. does — or whether it's more evidence of Kim's eccentric behavior.
The couple reportedly has at least one child, according to an unorthodox source: former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman. The eclectic Rodman has made several high-profile trips to North Korea — the first was made in 2013 with the Harlem Globetrotters for an exhibition game, and he's since returned an additional three times to visit with Kim.
Later that same year, Rodman revealed the existence and name of Kim and Ri's daughter, whose birthdate is unknown. "The Marshal Kim and I had a relaxing time by the sea with his family," Rodman told The Guardian after returning from his trip. "I held their baby Ju-Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well. [Kim] is a good dad and has a beautiful family."
However, Kim is notoriously disloyal to his family members. In 2014, he allegedly ordered the execution of his uncle's entire family, including children. "Some relatives were shot to death by pistol in front of other people if they resisted while being dragged out of their apartment homes," an anonymous source told South Korean news agency Yonhap. Earlier this year, Kim allegedly ordered the assassination of his half-brother Kim Jong-Nam for speaking out against his regime.
Kim's marriage seems unlikely to be a source of emotional clarity for the leader, whose persistence chasing a nuclear arsenal has been undaunted by a variety of forces. Right now, Ri seems as powerless to impede or influence this escalation as anyone else, but never count a woman out.