Love, Marriage, and Politics in North Korea

August 14, 2012

Katharine Moon on Why Marriage of North Korea's Kim Jong-un Should Be No Surprise

Portrait of Kathy Moon

Not much was known about Kim Jong-un when he assumed leadership of North Korea after his father’s death in 2011, but it still took many by surprise when state television confirmed last month that a woman who had been photographed accompanying him on social outings and at official events was in fact his wife.

In an opinion piece published by Project Syndicate earlier this month, Professor of Political Science Katharine H.S. Moon, Edith Stix Wasserman Professor of Asian Studies and director of East Asian Studies at Wellesley College, suggested that this announcement shouldn’t have come as a surprise at all.

“For Koreans on both sides of the 38th parallel, marriage has long been a staple of social life,” Moon wrote. “A Korean must be married with children to be considered a true adult–and that is no less true for North Korea’s First Couple.”

Moon reflected on love, marriage, and tradition in North Korean culture, and how the announcement plays into the image of the new leader. Moon wrote, “Marriage bestows on the young Kim social and, in turn, political legitimacy."

Read the entire article on, a site that “brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere,” and follow Professor Moon on Twitter @Moon1KHS.





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