Kim Jong Un's cheerleading wife rises in ranks to achieve first lady title

Once a member of North Korea’s “army of beauties” cheerleading squad and a former pop singer, Kim Jong Un’s wife will be called the “revered first lady” for the first time since marrying the despot nearly a decade ago.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his wife Ri Sol Ju and Song Tao, head of the International Department of Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, applaud with ballet dancers in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 17, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1F8E3538B0

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his wife Ri Sol Ju and Song Tao, head of the International Department of Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.  (KCNA via Reuters)

Ri Sol Ju’s new title was revealed earlier this week when she attended a performance by the National Ballet of China in Pyongyang’s Mandusae Art Theater. The state-run Korean Central News Agency referred to Ri as the “revered first lady” after her first solo public appearance at an event, Chosun Ilbo reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his wife Ri Sol-Ju attend the opening ceremony of the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground on Rungna Islet along the Taedong River in Pyongyang in this July 25, 2012 photograph released by the North's KCNA to Reuters on July 26, 2012.The Rungna People's Pleasure Ground has attractions such as a dolphinarium, a wading pool, a fun fair and a mini golf course, according to KCNA. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS - GM1E87Q0YGI01

Ri Sol Ju is rarely pictured without her husband Kim Jong Un.  (Reuters)

The wives of North Korean despots are usually referred to as “comrade.” The only other time North Korean state media used the title “revered first lady” was for Kim Jong-ae, the wife of late-leader and North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, according to the report.

NORTH KOREA'S FIRST LADY RI SOL-JU REMAINS A MYSTERY

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol Ju, and Chinese President Xi Jinping and wife Peng Liyuan pose for a photo in Beijing, China, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 28, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. - RC1C51817800

Ri Jol Su also traveled to China in late March to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  (KCNA via Reuters)

A researcher said Kim’s new title for his wife is a way to make the despot and his wife a more traditional "first couple" so Kim appears like “the leader of a normal nation.”

"Ri Sol-ju is playing a suitable role in repackaging Kim Jong-un as the leader of a normal nation. This sets her up to play the role of first lady in summits with South Korea and the U.S.,” the researcher told Chosun Ilbo.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and wife Ri Sol Ju (L) enjoy a joint performance given by the State Merited Chorus and the Moranbong Band celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on October 19, 2015. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. - GF10000250640

Ri Sol Ju was a pop singer and member of North Korea's cheerleading squad before becoming Kim's wife.  (Reuters)

Ri has remained mostly in the background, always appearing by Kim’s sides until this week. She traveled to Beijing, China in late March with Kim to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and sometimes appeared in propaganda photos during “field visits” at North Korean factories.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front) and his wife Ri Sol-ju (2nd L) look on during a visit to Unit 1017 of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force, honoured with the title of O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment, in this undated picture released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 21, 2013.     REUTERS/KCNA    (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TRANSPORT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - GM1E96L0LMU01

Ri Sol Ju in 2013, a year after the world found out she was Kim's wife.  (Reuters)

Ri was reportedly a singer and part of the regime’s cheerleading squad before secretly marrying Kim sometime between 2009 and 2010. She was only identified as the despot’s wife in 2012 and the couple is believed to have three children — though none of them have been pictured in public.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam