North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has tied the knot. The announcement comes two weeks after Kim and a mystery woman were first seen together, prompting a period of speculation on whether she was his wife, lover or sister.
Some observers in South Korea had speculated that Kim's new wife was the singer Hyon Song Wol, whom he had dated years ago, before his father, Kim Jong Il, put a stop to their relationship. However, the North Korean state broadcaster gave the mystery woman's name as Ri Sol Ju - and gave few further details. It is not even clear when Kim and Ri got hitched.
"Kim Jong Un's move appears to give the youth hoping for change, especially young women, a favorable impression of him, although it can make conservative old North Koreans uncomfortable," Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank, told the Reuters news agency. "Although Kim Jong Un continues a one-man dictatorship, he is expected to have a more open attitude in culture than in the Kim Jong Il era."
The 20-something Kim took over the family dynasty last December with the death of his father, whose rule took North Korea deeper into isolation, abject poverty and large-scale political repression. Since assuming power, Kim has taken a more glitzy approach, at least on the surface, to ruling a country that is locked in a standoff over its nuclear weapons program.
Other recent announcements by the young leader include his ousting on Sunday of Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho, the country's top military figure and a close ally of Kim's father. The leader named himself marshal of the army in a move that adds to his glittering array of titles and cements his power: He already heads the Workers' Party of Korea and is First Chairman of the National Defense Commission.
According to the United Nations, some 16 million people in North Korea - or two-thirds of the population - are malnourished or lack food security.
mkg/mz (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)