The crime and politics sections of Far Eastern news have taken a page from the gossip column. Two women are at the center of public attention and have put economic and political news into the corner, for once.
North Korean television has revealed that Kim Jon-Un is married. Seen accompanying him during a visit to an amusement park is Ri Sol-Ju, a smiling young woman who wears western clothes. The heir of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled North Korea since 1945, the Supreme Leader of State, Party, and Military was shown in a relatively simple setting on TV, far from the pomp and propaganda that usually accompany programs about him.
Despite the novel approach, there were no more details provided, and Korea Watchers have let their imaginations run wild. Could the first lady have been in South Korea in 2005? She might be a singer, and may even have married Kim three years ago. It may be the case that Pyongyang is trying to send a comforting message to the people, just days after the leader of the military was removed, a way of lightening the drama with a family outing. Kim’s young age (28 or 29) may have seemed dissonant in a country that reveres old age, but he now commands the respect of mature married man.
On the other side of the Yellow Sea, in the North Korea’s protector, China, another woman dominates the headlines, but in a darker manner. Gu Kailai, wife of Chinese party boss Bo Xilai, has been indicted for murder and may face the death penalty. She is accused of poisoning an English businessman who for years had worked with her and was involved in shady business deals.
The story of Gu, a successful woman who spoke perfect English and was comfortable in the international arena, is intertwined with that of her husband, a high-ranking figure in China’s neo-Maoist movement. The murder took place in Chonqing, where Bo was governor until this past April. The 33 million-inhabitant metropolis enjoyed extraordinary development under his guidance, growing into a modern industrial city free from organized crime, along with a new political movement that recalled the Maoist slogans of the Cultural Revolution.
In a story of international espionage and betrayal that has yet to be fully unraveled, Bo was removed from his political posts and from the Central Committee. His current status is unknown, but one thing is for certain: his ambitions to be nominated as one of nine members of the Standing Committee have almost certainly been dashed.
Bo and his wife fell into disgrace together, even though there is no apparent connection between their fates. The Xinhua news agency makes no mention of Bo in the announcement of his wife’s indictment. There is also no mention of their son, whose extravagant lifestyle while studying abroad was widely criticized on social networks and by the Beijing press. The actual news is very scarce, and leaves much room for interpretation. One of these interpretations is of the guilty woman, whose greed betrays the political aspirations of her husband. Ci XI, the widow empress, schemed at the beginning of the last century, the wife of Jang Jieshi (Chang Kai Shek) set him against the Communist Patriots, and Jiang Qing urged her husband Mao to launch the Cultural Revolution. There are different regimes, governments, and men in power, but in the end it is always a matter of women.