Kim Jong Un sends letter to South African President amid death rumours

North Korean state media publish letter from Kim Jong Un to South African president dated TODAY in bid to quell rumours their leader has died

  • KCNA reported that Kim, 36, wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa today 
  • He congratulated the South African leader on nation’s Freedom Day 
  • Kim has not been seen since April 11 and failed to attend event on April 15  

North Korean state media have published a letter they claim he sent to the South African President today, amid rumours he is dead.

Dated on Monday, the letter congratulates President Cyril Ramaphosa on South Africa’s Freedom Day, which marks the end of Apartheid, KCNA reports. 

The dictator, 36, wrote to President Ramaphosa to say their two nations’ bond is growing ‘steadily stronger’.         

Rumours have swirled over Kim’s health since he failed to attend a ruling party showpiece on April 15, and he has not been seen in public since. 

Reports that he underwent a cardiovascular procedure have spiralled into speculation that he could be critically ill – or even dead. 

Kim Jong-un was last seen in public on April 11 at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party (pictured). His absence has prompted rumours about his health 

Kim Jong-un could have injured himself during a North Korean missile launch earlier this month, a defector has claimed. A similar launch is shown on March 21 

A picture widely believed to have been manipulated to show Kim Jong Un inside a glass coffin – most likely a photoshopped image of his father Kim Jong Il – has even been circulating online, falsely credited to Hong Kong media

Today there have been claims that he may have been injured in a missile launch.  

Seoul and Washington have played down the reports, but there has been no concrete proof of life in Pyongyang’s state media, beyond reports of messages sent in his name. 

Former Workers’ Party official Lee Jeong Ho today wrote in South Korean newspaper Dong-a Ilbo that Kim must have been healthy enough to authorise missile tests on April 14 – but could have hurt himself in the process. 

‘Kim was absent from the reports of the tests while no footage of the missile launch and the training of combat aircraft was released, which points to a possibility of an unexpected accident that might have been caused by debris or fire,’ he said.   

The body of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, lay in state in a glass coffin at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Memorial Palace following his death in 2011 (pictured)

Lee also played down claims that Kim could be ‘brain dead’, after reports that the dictator was critically ill following heart surgery. 

Reports that Kim was treated at a Mount Myohayng hospital are unlikely to be true because Kim’s doctors are based in Pyongyang, Lee said. 

The barrage of missiles which splashed down off the country’s east coast on April 14 could not have gone ahead without Kim’s approval, Lee said. 

Before defecting to the US, Lee was an official in a money-making department called Room 39, the South Korean newspaper says. 

North Korean media has offered no direct updates on Kim’s health, which experts have said is unusual in itself.  

Asked yesterday whether Kim was dead, UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said Britain did not know but was monitoring the situation. 

As rumours swirl, a picture has even circulated which purports to show Kim in a glass coffin, but it is believed to be a doctored image of his father from 2011.  

According to the Washington Post, the rumours over Kim’s health have sparked panic buying in Pyongyang. 

People have stocked up on rice, liquor, cigarettes, canned fish and electronics while helicopters have been flying low over the city, it is reported.  

However, one state newspaper reported that Kim had sent a thank-you message to builders at a seaside resort, indicating he is alive.   

The newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Kim has sent a personal letter to workers on a project in the city of Wonsan, where a train believed to belong to the leader was spotted in satellite images.

The report has not been verified and it is unclear whether the letter was actually sent by Kim or on his behalf. 

South Korean foreign policy adviser Chung-in Moon said yesterday that Kim was ‘alive and well’ and had been living in Wonsan since April 13. 

The aide added that his government’s position is firmly that Kim is not dead. He told Fox: ‘No suspicious movements have so far been detected.’ 

Kim Jong-un has sent a personal letter to workers on a project in the city of Wonsan, according to a state newspaper

Satellite images of Wonsan Elite railway station show the leader’s train arriving after April 15, and was still at the station on April 23

Rumours of Kim’s death gained fresh currency following a report from Hong Kong TV director Shijian Xingzou which emerged yesterday. 

She has 15million followers on Chinese social media Weibo, and is also the niece of one of the country’s foreign ministers.

Separately, a Japanese media outlet claimed Kim was in a ‘vegetative state’ after he underwent heart surgery earlier in the month.

The despot has not been seen publicly since April 11 when he led a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party committee of policy makers.

Four days later he was conspicuously absent from an annual celebration in tribute to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who founded the Communist state. 

Kim missed another national event on Saturday when he failed to appear for the country’s Military Foundation Day.  

North Korean defectors have cast doubt on reports about Kim’s illness, saying it is unlikely that information would leak out from Kim’s inner circle.   

Joo Sung-ha, a North Korean defector turned journalist, said in a Facebook post reported by the New York Times that it was reasonable to believe Kim had health problems, but that he had zero trust in reports about why the leader has faced a medical emergency. 

‘The health of the Kim family is the secret among secrets,’ he said. 

Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who also defected, said it was hard to believe any reliable information about Kim had been leaked by his most trusted aides.

He said while he worked in the country no one was aware of Kim Jong-il’s death they gathered in an auditorium and saw an announcer dressed in black.

A 250-metre-long train belonging to the dictator has been spotted near to his Wonsan holiday compound as recently as Thursday in satellite photos

A senior Pentagon official said US intelligence had found no sign of unusual military activity in North Korea that would suggest something was awry.

An anonymous source told Newsweek: ‘Regional militaries in the Western Pacific and Asia, including those of our partner nations, remain at readiness levels consistent with historical norms.

‘We have observed no indications or received any additional information to make a conclusive assessment on the status of North Korean leadership or health of Kim Jong-un.’

The official said the Pentagon continues to monitor the situation very closely, but also remarked speculations surrounding Kim’s health may not be completely unfounded.

Citing the presence of the dictator’s train at his Wonsan compound and his uncharacteristic failure to attend two major national events, the official claimed there is ‘certainly credibility to report that [Kim] is either in a serious health condition or potentially deceased.

The official added: ‘Since he is perceived as a deity in NK, his death would instantly trigger nationwide indications, so there is potential that the government had delayed an announcement in order to have everything in place to maintain security across the country.’   

Kim Jong Un’s private jet, pictured above in North Korea in 2014, has remained on the tarmac in Pyongyang. It is frequently used for trips to the Wonsan resort, Asian media said

The dictator’s 250-metre-long train has been seen near his Wonsan holiday complex on satellite images as recently as April 23, according to news website 38North.

It was parked at a station reserved for the Kim family. The website said although the dictator’s whereabouts remain unknown, the trains position suggests he has visited the resort.

The most recent photos, from April 23, show the train preparing for departure.

Kim’s private jet, frequently used for trips to Wonsan, remains on the runway in Pyongyang, South Korean broadcaster SBS reported.

Kim Jong Un’s last known movements 

April 11 – The dictator presides over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party committee of policymakers. His most recent public appearance

April 15 – Kim is absent from celebrations for North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung

April 21 – First reports surface claiming the dictator has received heart surgery from South Korean-based publication Daily NK

April 23 – Kim’s private train is spotted near his holiday resort in Wonsan on satellite images. It is at a station reserved for use by the Kim family, prompting rumours that he has travelled to the destination

April 23 – Chinese doctors reportedly arrive in North Korea around this time to treat the dictator. China is yet to confirm or deny the reports

The Wonsan complex includes nine large guesthouses and recreation centre, as well as a shooting range and covered dock believed to be for a yacht.

At the centre of the grounds is a large building that was constructed shortly after Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011.  

US Senator Lindsey Graham added to speculation of his death, telling Fox News last night he believes reports on the leader’s health.

He said: ‘Well, it’s a closed society, I don’t know anything directly. But I’d be shocked if he’s not dead or in some incapacitated state because you don’t let rumours like this go forever or go unanswered in a closed society, which is really a cult, not a country, called North Korea.

‘So I pretty well believe he is dead or incapacitated.

‘And I hope the long-suffering North Korean people will get some relief if he is dead, and President Trump’s willing to do business with North Korea in a win-win fashion.

‘So, if this guy is dead, I hope the next person who takes over will work with President Trump to make North Korea a better place for everybody.’

Senator Graham has regularly made comments on the state of North Korea’s regime and is seen as an influential policy adviser to President Trump.

He has praised the President’s handling of the North Korea crisis and decision to hold talks aimed at denuclearising the peninsula. 

Senator Lindsey Graham has previously commented on North Korea to the US media. He has been cited as a powerful foreign policy adviser to the Trump administration. He said he would be shocked if Kim was not dead 

A special train possibly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen in a satellite image with graphics taken over Wonsan, North Korea April 21, 2020

The most recent photos, from April 23, show the North Korean dictator’s train preparing for departure

US President Donald Trump also downplayed reports Kim was gravely ill on April 23.

‘I think the report was incorrect,’ Trump told reporters, but he declined to say if he had been in touch with North Korean officials.

Military activity suggests ‘Nothing amiss’, US Intelligence says

Despite the dictator’s suspect absence from Military Foundation Day on Saturday, a senior Pentagon official has said US intelligence has found no sign of unusual military activity in North Korea that would suggest something was awry.

‘Regional militarizes in the Western Pacific and Asia, including those of our partner nations, remain at readiness levels consistent with historical norms,’ the anonymous source told Newsweek. 

‘We have observed no indications or received any additional information to make a conclusive assessment on the status of North Korean leadership or health of Kim Jong-un.’

The official said the Pentagon continues to monitor the situation very closely, but also remarked that speculations surrounding Kim’s health may not be completely unfounded.

Citing the presence of the dictator’s train at his Wonsan compound, and his uncharacteristic failure to attend two major national events, the official said there is ‘certainly credibility to report that [Kim] is either in a serious health condition or potentially deceased.

‘Since he is perceived as a deity in NK, his death would instantly trigger nationwide indications, so there is potential that the government had delayed an announcement in order to have everything in place to maintain security across the country,’ the official added.  

‘We have a good relationship with North Korea, I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un, and I hope he’s okay. And I think it was a fake report,’ he said.

When asked about Kim’s health on Fox News after Trump spoke, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, ‘I don’t have anything I can share with you tonight, but the American people should know we’re watching the situation very keenly.’

On April 24, a South Korean source told Reuters their intelligence was Kim was alive and would likely make an appearance soon.

The person said he did not have any comment on Kim’s current condition or any Chinese involvement.

An official familiar with US intelligence said Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public. 

China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation.

A report by the weekly Shukan Gendai  in Japan claimed on April 24 North Korea’s dictator is in a ‘vegetative state’ after having heart surgery earlier in the month. 

The outlet cited a Chinese medic who is believed to have been sent as part of the team to treat Kim Jong Un after a delay in a simple heart procedure had left the leader severely ill.

The source cited by the news outlet claimed Jong-un was visiting the countryside when he clutched his chest and fell to the ground.

A doctor with him at the time is said to have  performed CPR and accompanied him to a hospital.

However, the reporting of the deaths of previous North Korean leaders has taken time to emerge officially.

Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father, died of a heart attack while travelling by train two days before it was announced publicly.

Who could take the reins of power from Kim Jong-un?

Kim Yo-jong, dictator’s sister

The dictator’s sister has been widely tipped as a likely successor. However, much about her remains a mystery.

‘Among the North’s power elite, she has the highest chance to inherit power, and I think that is possibly more than 90 per cent,’ an analyst told the Associated Press. 

Her age is unclear, though she’s believed to be in her 30s and a few year’s younger than her 36-year-old brother.

She’s kept a low profile, only making her first public statement last month in which she mocked South Korea as a ‘frightened dog barking’ after the country protested against a live fire military exercise.

She also has a reputation for aggressively pushing North Korean propaganda and, in 2017, was blacklisted by the US Treaasury Department.  

Ri Pyong-chol, top general and related to Kim’s wife

The general has also been listed as a possible successor.

As supervisor of the country’s ballistic missile program, he has the credentials to command the military, the ultimate power-brokers inside the country.

He is also seen as a credible heir to Kim Jong Un’s ambitions, and could be regarded as offering a balance between the hard-liners and Kim dynasty.

He also holds a high position in the Worker’s Party of Korea.

Other possible successors include Ri Yong-ho, foreign minister, Kim Yong-chol, top diplomat, and No Kwang-chol, defence minister.

The Vice director of HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television Shijian Xingzou says that a ‘very solid source’ has told her the North Korean despot, 36, was already dead

A special train possibly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was spotted this week at a resort town in the country, according to satellite images reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, amid conflicting reports about Kim’s health and whereabouts

North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.

Each change at the top in North Korea has raised the prospect of a leadership vacuum or collapse of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled the country since its founding in 1948.

So far, each of the three Kims to rule North Korea has defied expectations, holding on to power with an iron grip. But under Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has grown substantially, raising concerns over who would control them.

In the event of any leadership transition, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong is likely to play a central part.

In the past two years, Yo Jong has risen quickly through North Korea’s leadership hierarchy, serving officially as a vice director of the Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee, but also unofficially as her brother’s chief of staff.

Kim Yo Jong, who is believed to be 31, has a firm control of key party functions, setting herself to be the main source of power behind a collective leadership. She has regularly been observed at her brother’s side, leading South Korean Media to dub her the ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’.

‘Kim Yo Jong will be for the time being the main power base with control of the organisation and guidance department, the judiciary and public security,’ said Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded think-tank in Seoul.

Still, relatively little is known of of Kim Yo Jong. The dictator’s younger sibling has routinely kept a low profile, having only made her first public statement last month, in which she mocked South Korea as being a ‘frightening dog barking’, for opposing a live-fire military demonstration.

But sources say Yo Jong’s work behind the scenes suggests she would rule with the same iron-fist as her predecessors, should she be announced leader, temporarily or otherwise.

Along with several other North Korean officials, Kim Yo Jong was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department for ‘severe human rights abuses’ in 2017.

She also incurred a reputation for her aggressive propaganda pushing, regarded a one of the main officials who worked to enact ‘rigid censorship policies and conceals its inhumane and oppressive behavior’.

‘Among the North’s power elite, Kim Yo Jong has the highest chance to inherit power, and I think that possibility is more than 90 per cent,’ an analyst said.

Yo Jong first began working in the ruling party in 2007, but in the last few years she has ‘gotten a lot more serious’ about the role she’s playing, government consultant Michael Madden told the New Yorker.

‘When you see footage of her on the receiving lines, she is smiling, a nice friendly young woman, but when she is out of those lines, the smile vanishes and she even looks like Kim Jong Il,’ Madden remarked.

Should she be announced as ruler, Yo Jong would become North Korea’s first female leader since her Grandfather Kim Il-Sung founded the nation in 1948.   

North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated, and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister (above) and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over

In the event of Kim Jong Un’s death, party Elders Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju would likely find themselves at Yo Jong’s side, helping to weather any leadership storm.

Ryong Hae was announced as North Korea’s nominal head of state last when he rose to become president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, following decades of service within the party for the ruing Kim family.

Choe and Pak Pong Ju, a fellow politburo member and former state premier who oversaw the North’s push to introduce more free-market functions to revive its economy, are likely to be the figureheads leading a collective leadership, analysts say.

Unlikely to emerge as a major presence is Kim Jong Un’s estranged older brother, Kim Jong Chol, who has not been a part of the country’s leadership instead opting for a quite life away from politics playing music.

Though according to North Korea’s former deputy ambassador in London, who has since defected to the South, Jong Chol does maintain ties with his siblings and could play a more public role in any contingency plans. 

Kim Jong Un is believed to have three children with Ri Sol Ju, the youngest born in 2017, according to the South’s National Intelligence Service.

The oldest is a 10-year-old son, meaning any of the three would need the assistance of their relatives or political guardians if they were to become a fourth-generation hereditary leader.

Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the country, while Kim Jong Un had just over a year to prepare, due to his father’s sudden death from a heart attack.

Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said: ‘Kim Yo Jong is unlikely to take over the helm but could help build a caretaker regime as a power broker until the kids grow up, and Kim Jong Chol might return to help for a while.’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, centre left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019 

South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation

This is not the first time Kim has disappeared from the public eye. 

In 2014, Kim was not seen for 40 days, before he reemerged appearing to walk with a limp and using a cane, after he reportedly suffered from an ankle problem.

His father, Kim Jong-il, disappeared from view for months in 2008, prompting speculation that he had a stroke. A French doctor later confirmed the reports, and the then leader died three years later.

But North Korea’s ruling elite have vanished from the spotlight before prompting rumors of their death only to re-emerge seemingly unscathed.

In 2015 it was claimed by a North Korean defector that Kim ordered his own aunt to be killed by poison. The aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, re-appeared smiling in January. 

A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday, two of the people said. The department is the main Chinese body dealing with neighbouring North Korea. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) visiting the construction site of the Sunchon phosphatic fertiliser factory in South Pyongan province on January 7

US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on December 4, 2019. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump also downplayed earlier reports that Kim was gravely ill

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in January last year. An official familiar with US intelligence said Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public

EXCLUSIVE: Kim Jong-un sees himself as the North Korean John F. Kennedy and ‘groomed’ his wife Ri Sol Ju to be as fashionable and well mannered as Jackie, claims new book on the despot as questions swirl about his health 

One was a beacon of optimism in post-WWII America, the other presides over a brutal Communist regime set on building a nuclear weapon.

But despite the differences, Kim Jong-un believes he is living in his own version of Camelot, the youthful world of John F. Kennedy.

A new book claims that the leader of North Korea sees himself as Kennedy and his wife Ri Sol Ju, with her impeccable manners and fashionable wardrobe, as the parallel of Jackie Kennedy.

Kim ‘literally and figuratively groomed’ Ri so she would look the part of First Lady, writes former CIA analyst Jung H. Pak.

A new book claims that the leader of North Korea sees himself as Kennedy and his wife Ri Sol Ju as the parallel of Jackie Kennedy

Kim Jong-un believes he is living in his own version of Camelot, the youthful world of John F. Kennedy

She says that Kim made Ri a ‘walking advertisement’ for his image of North Korea as a modern, prosperous country with water parks and ski parks to reinforce that vision.

Her book ‘Becoming Kim Jong-un: A Former CIA Officer’s Insights into North Korea’s Enigmatic Young Dictator’ is out next week at a time of intense speculation over Kim’s health.

Becoming Kim Jong Un: A Former CIA Officer’s Insights into North Korea’s Enigmatic Young Dictator gives insight into the despot’s mindset

Recent reports claimed that the 36-year-old was seriously ill after a heart procedure, speculation that was fanned when he failed to show up for the anniversary of North Korea’s founding father Kim Il Sung, Kim’s grandfather, on April 15.

Some reports have said that Kim Yo-jong, Kim’s sister, could be ready to take over from him if he dies.

But that glosses over the importance of Ri in Kim’s image of himself, writes Pak.

Having carried out dozens of bloody purges of his regime, Kim is only too aware of the jockeying for position within the North Korean elite.

So Ri’s elevation may be a ‘deliberate attempt to fend off any challengers’ to his succession.

The couple have at least one child – former NBA star Dennis Rodman held one baby of theirs on a trip to Pyongyang – but they are thought to have two more.

Even in his 30s Kim is ‘planning for the long haul and plotting a strategy for the duration of not just his life, but his children’s life as well’.

The comparison between the Kims and the Kennedys on the face of it seems unlikely.

The Kennedys are Massachusetts-based Democratic political dynasty while Kim’s grandfather was a nationalist guerrilla who founded the hermit nation after being hand picked by the Soviets.

Becoming Kim Jong-un says that the parallel lies in how both of them project the image they want their country to be.

In the case of North Korea, Kim wanted to construct an ‘alternate reality’ from the truth, which is that hundreds of thousands of people are locked in gulags and labor camps.


Kim ‘literally and figuratively groomed’ Ri so she would look the part of First Lady, writes former CIA analyst Jung H. Pak

While JFK was a beacon of optimism in post-WWII America, Kim presides over a brutal Communist regime set on building a nuclear weapon, but feels he and JFK are one and the same

Kim wanted to construct an ‘alternate reality’ from the truth, which is that hundreds of thousands of people are locked in gulags and labor camps. The book says that the parallel to the Kennedys lies in how both of them project the image they want their country to be

Kim went on a building spree of amusement parks and luxury resorts to lure in Chinese tourists and distract from the repression and the poverty which makes up daily life in North Korea.

John Park, a North Korea expert at Harvard University, said: ‘There’s this idea of a North Korean dream and Kim Jong-un being the creator of this dream and his wife being essentially the face of this dream.

‘This type of dynamic is sort of an analogy for the future of North Korea overall’.

Nowhere is this more the case than Ri, who like Jackie Kennedy came from the elite of her society.

Ri was a former cheerleader and a member of the Unhasu Orchestra, an elite troupe handpicked by the state for their looks, loyalty and talent.

She was introduced to the world seven months after Kim took power in 2011 when she was seen with him at a concert.

From ‘Comrade Ri’ she soon became ‘Respected First Lady’ as she appeared by Kim’s side more often.

What was surprising was her Western clothes and her appearance which was a striking departure from past practices.

Ri went to Beijing to meet with President Xi in March 2018 and subsequent trips to China and Chinese and South Korean media were buzzing about her wardrobe 

Like Jackie Kennedy, Ri is a ‘glamorous and devoted wife’ and a ‘glimpse of an emerging material and consumer culture which Kim seems to be actively promoting,’ the book claims 

Kim went on a building spree of amusement parks and luxury resorts to lure in Chinese tourists and distract from the repression and the poverty which makes up daily life in North Korea 

Kim’s grandfather railed against make-up and ‘pretty dresses’ and under his rule it was illegal for women to wear trousers when not at work.

The book will be released next week at a time of intense speculation over Kim’s health after reports the 36-year-old was seriously ill after a heart procedure

Ri by contrast wore on her first appearance a bright green blouse with a fitted skirt and peep toe black pumps – the Huffington Post gushed: ‘She is stylist indeed!’

On another occasion watching a flight contest with officers of the Korean People’s Air Force her hair was partly rolled back, her lipstick was a tasteful muted pink shade and she was wearing a blue dress and three quarter length suit with a sparkly brooch.

In a sea of men wearing suits her colorful attire was a ‘dramatic contrast’.

According to Pak, Ri was ‘channeling Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’ and ‘evoking the storied elegance of Jackie Kennedy’.

Kim was ‘literally and figuratively grooming her to be Pyongang’s First Lady’, the book says.

Ri’s diplomatic debut was on March 5, 2018 hosting the South Korean delegation to set up the first inter-Korean summit which would occur a month later.

South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong committed a major faux pas over dinner when he asked Kim: ‘Low about you stopped smoking? It’s bad for your health

The table froze as no one criticized Kim but Ri clapped her hands and said: ‘I always ask him to quit smoking but he won’t listen to me’.

She defused the tension immediately and both parties moved on.

Ri went to Beijing to meet with President Xi in March 2018 and subsequent trips to China.

The author writes that Ri is somebody who ‘provides the regime with a softer side, a thin veneer of style and good humor to mask the brutality, starvation and deprivation endured by the people’

Chinese and South Korean media were ablaze about her outfit and Chinese Internet users fawned over her so much the Communist party censored them because they were making President Xi’s wife look bad.

Ri was with her husband for the inter-Korean summit the following month which laid the groundwork for Kim’s historic meeting with Donald Trump, a sign of how vital she is to her husband.

Pak writes that Kim sees Ri as ‘another component of his power’ and she has ‘personified the charm in the North Korean charm offensive’.

Ri is somebody who ‘provides the regime with a softer side, a thin veneer of style and good humor to mask the brutality, starvation and deprivation endured by the people’

Like Jackie Kennedy, Ri is a ‘glamorous and devoted wife’ and a ‘glimpse of an emerging material and consumer culture which Kim seems to be actively promoting’.

Through her he has an ‘opportunity to channel the consumerist energies of the North Korean people’, the book says.

In that sense at least, she is more like Jackie Kennedy than you might think.

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