North Korea's Ri Sol-ju 'may have visited South Korea'

Composite photos of what is believed to be Ri Sol-ju at various events. From left: during an inter-Korean event in North Korea in 2003 and during an athletic event in South Korea in 2005. The third photo is a current photo from KCNA. There has been much speculation, but little confirmation, about Ri Sol-ju

More details are emerging in South Korea about the woman identified as the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

A lawmaker, quoting intelligence officials, said they believed Ri Sol-ju had visited South Korea in 2005 and had studied singing in China.

Other news reports suggest that Mr Kim may have spotted her at a musical performance.

North Korea has not given any details beyond saying she was Mr Kim's wife.

There had been speculation about Mr Kim, who took over as leader of the country after the death of his father Kim Jong-il last year, after he was seen with a woman on various occasions since June.

State media confirmed for the first time on Wednesday that leader Kim Jong-un was married.

An eight-minute report on North Korean radio mentioning Ms Ri's name was broadcast at 20:00 local time (11:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

South Korean lawmaker Jung Chung-rai told reporters following a briefing by intelligence agents that Ms Ri was from an ordinary family in Pyongyang.

Ms Ri may have visited South Korea in 2005 as part of the North's cheerleading team for the Asian Athletics Championships, Mr Jung said.

The cheerleaders are seen wearing red baseball caps, twirling umbrellas and dancing in the stands with tambourines, television footage of the event shows.

Ms Ri is also likely to have "participated in several inter-Korean exchange programmes", reports South Korean news ageny Yonhap.

The paper cited three separate events between 2003-2005 attended by someone from North Korea with the same name as Ms Ri, including the championships.

Media speculation

It remains unclear when the couple got married. Most South Korean reports suggest that Ms Ri may have been a singer who caught Mr Kim's attention during a performance.

A source told the The Choson Ilbo newspaper that a singer with the same name as Ms Ri had performed with the Eunhasu Orchestra until last year.

At least two newspapers, including the Choson Ilbo, say that Ms Ri has been groomed as the first lady, possibly studying at Kim Il-sung University.

Ms Ri's Western-style dress and short cropped hair have led to speculation over whether Kim Jong-un has a less traditional, more international outlook than his father, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul.

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