Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has drawn mass media attention after rumors surfaced that the first lady may be pregnant.
Ri made her first public appearance in two months earlier this week. She attended a musical concert and football game with her husband on Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Kim Il Sung Military University. Because Ri is so often kept out of the public eye, her appearance has created a frenzy in the Korean media, amid rumors that she may be pregnant.
"Rumors first came out from officials who attended the same event," Kim Yong-hoon, head of the North Korean desk at Daily NK, an online newspaper based in Seoul that focuses on North Korea, said in a CNN report. "They started questioning and speculating if she was pregnant and it has spread throughout the country and that's how we heard about the rumors."
It has been suggested that Ri, 23, had been kept of the public eye due to disciplinary measures. Local media suggested that she fell out of favor for not wearing a lapel pin of former leaders, which is a requirement for adult leaders. Her "cheerful demeanor" has allegedly also not gone over well with the elder leaders, according to The Huffington Post.
However some have stated that it is not the North Korea media that is interested in Ri's pregnancy, adding criticism to the way that news from the reclusive country is handled by other media outlets.
"Do we track the last time Michelle Obama showed up?" John Delury, assistant professor at Yonsei University, asked in a CNN interview. "Our minds are so trained to do this with North Korea that we miss the bigger picture which is there is something new -- and by almost international standards we could say more normal -- about the way she appears in public."
The pregnancy would be Ri's first, and the first possible son born as heir to the dynastic regime.