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North Korean leader's female companion stirs speculation

July 9, 2012 | 12:26 pm

Kim Jong Un at a Friday concert, accompanied by an unidentified woman
North Korean media have disclosed so little about leader Kim Jong Un's personal life that no one outside of his innermost circle knows his age or marital status. Now Koreans on both sides of the divided peninsula have a new mystery to ponder: Who is that elegant young woman at his side?

The same slender, twentysomething woman seen with Kim at a Friday night concert in Pyongyang showed up with the young leader at a memorial ceremony on Sunday marking the 18th anniversary of the death of his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

Dressed in a tailored black skirt suit, her short hair demurely tucked behind her ears, the woman applauded and bowed in unison with Kim during both public appearances. Her unexplained presence has set off speculation among analysts of the hermetic northern state about whether she might be his wife or perhaps a younger sister.

The KRT broadcast network, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper and the Central Korean News Agency all carried photos or footage of the couple at the two events, but none identified the mystery woman.

Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, told the Associated Press that Kim has a sister born in 1987. But the images of the woman with Kim didn't evoke much family resemblance.

Official biographies of Kim, believed to be in his late 20s, make no mention of his marital status. Since assuming the leadership in December, following the death of his father Kim Jong Il, he has attended official ceremonies with other senior government leaders or older family members.

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-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles

Photo: North Korean media have carried photos and footage of leader Kim Jong Un in the company of a young woman, but have not identified her. Two appearances in recent days have set off speculation that she might be a younger sister or his wife. Credit: Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service/Associated Press

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