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N. Korean leader gives luxurious house to his most famous newscaster

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SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Ri Chun Hi, a state television anchor, is one of North Korea’s most recognized voices, having announced the country’s key events in recent decades in a thunderous, booming voice loaded with emotion, including nuclear and missile launches and the death of a leader.

On Thursday (April 14), after leader Kim Jong Un granted Ri a luxurious residence and ordered her to continue to actively serve as the voice of his governing Workers’ Party, the anchor called the “pink lady” for her vivid, traditional dress was the subject of official North Korean media herself.

Experts believe Kim is attempting to bolster his popularity among North Korean elites as the country grapples with epidemic woes and a diplomatic impasse.

“(Kim) said it is the sincerity of the party that there is nothing to spare for the treasures of the country like her who has worked as a revolutionary announcer for the party for more than 50 years since her girlhood,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim expressed “expectation that she would as ever vigorously continue her work in good health as befitting a spokeswoman for the party.”

Kim and Ri met in Pyongyang’s newly built riverside terraced residential district, which was inaugurated on Wednesday. According to KCNA, Ri and other people who have provided exceptional service to the state were awarded houses in the district.

“By giving houses to those who have been faithful to him, Kim Jong Un would want to further bolster their royalty and internal unity,” said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

“Ri Chun Hi is a clear example of such people as she’s strongly propagated his nuclear and missile tests and served as a sort of bugler for him.”

Kim’s late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung turns 110 on Friday. It is the most significant state anniversary in North Korea, which has been ruled by three generations of the Kim family since its establishment in 1948. Until the 1970s, Kim Il Sung’s official residence was located in the new housing area.

KCNA said Kim looked around Ri’s house with her on Wednesday and took an unspecified step to prevent her from suffering any inconvenience “while going up and down the stairs.”

Ri, who is about 79, said she felt her new house was like a hotel and that all her family members “stayed up all night in tears of deep gratitude for the party’s benevolence,” according to KCNA.

Her close ties with Kim were shown during a military parade last year when she watched troops’ march from an elevated veranda right next to him. Analysts say Ri receives Cabinet member-level treatment at home, appears healthy and is expected to continue to handle key televised announcements.

In 2011, a Taiwanese TV station apologised after one of its newsreaders mimicked Ri Yong-ho’s voice when announcing the death of Kim Jong Il. Ri’s passionate, effusive style has sometimes generated laughter in other countries. Analysts say recent missile tests were meant to advance his weapons and pressure the US and rivals for diplomatic concessions.

Source: Associated Press

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