Kim Jong-il marries his former secretary: report

AFP , SEOUL

Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 5

North Korea's Kim Jong-il has taken a musician-turned-secretary as his new wife after his former spouse died of cancer two years ago, a report said yesterday.

Kim Ok, 42, lived with the reclusive North Korean leader who turned 64 in February after serving as his private secretary, Seoul's Yonhap news agency said quoting an unnamed government source.

"She is virtually North Korea's first lady," said the source who Yonhap called a Seoul government source privy to information on Kim Jong-il's family

Kim Ok, a piano major at Pyongyang University of Music and Dance before becoming Kim Jong-il's secretary in the early 1980s, has since accompanied the North's leader on trips at home and abroad, the source said.

"She is a cute woman rather than a beauty," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I heard she is very wise and clever."

She visited Washington as a member of North Korea's delegation led by Jo Myong-rok, first vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, in 2000 and accompanied Kim Jong-il to visit China in January, the source added.

The reclusive leader has often been described by outside media as having a playboy lifestyle of wine and women despite the chronic poverty of his people.

Pyongyang has never made public Kim Jong-il's marital status, but he is believed to have had three wives, South Korean and Japanese media reports said.