Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader best known in the States for his love of nuclear tests and his friendship with American former somebody Dennis Rodman, is reportedly out to find his little sister a husband—and using a decidedly Western way to get her hitched.
Kim has allegedly chosen 30 eligible bachelors for his 29-year-old sister Kim Yo Jong. She’s one of the country’s most powerful women, both because of her brother and in her own right, as a newly appointed member of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The single-and-ready-to-commit comrades would be winnowed down much like contestants on The Bachelor, according to an anonymous high-ranking official-turned-defector quoted in Voice of America and later translated as a breathless “exclusive” in British tabloid The Sun.
And unlike the personal trainers and the unemployed who make up the American crop of Bachelorette hopefuls, there would be no bums in Kim Yo Jong’s bunch. Reports say Kim, The Onion’s 2012 Sexiest Man Alive, will only consider potential mates who are educated at the Harvard of Pyongyang, Kim Il Sung University. The suitors must also be attractive (obviously), at least 5-foot-9, a member of the party, and have served in the North Korean People’s Army.
Who among us could resist the image of a plumping, oafish, yet still murderous Kim Jong Un standing before two-dozen anxious regime loyalists, all wearing their hair in the state-sanctioned style, asking each if he might “accept this rose?”
Delicious as the prospect may be, it’s very unlikely to be true, said Michael Madden, an expert who blogs at North Korean Leadership Watch.
“It’s bullshit,” Madden says. “If I had a dime for every rumor told about the leaders and their personal lives, I’d be a millionaire.”
There might be a tiny nucleus of truth in the story, Madden says. “They might be matchmaking her with someone if she’s not married”—though he adds that even that’s unclear, because of the culture of secrecy in the Hermit Kingdom.
Kim Yo Jong was previously rumored to be married to the son of Workers’ Party Secretary Choe Ryong Hae, as well as to a non-elite science professor. A 47-day absence in 2015 drove rumors that the younger Kim had given birth, but again it’s all just speculation.
Madden says the recent activity in North Korea—nuclear tests and space launches and the convening of the party congress for the first time since 1980—might be driving the recent spate of wild tales from South Korea.
“Every time [North Korea] does something strategic, the disinformation comes,” Madden says.
“There’s enough weird stuff about North Korean’s sex and personal lives that’s actually true,” he says.
Madden answers the inevitable “Like what?” to that question with some hesitation, before launching into what he says is a common North Korean “sloppy seconds” fetish having to do, he imagines, with a culture of prostitution and women who perform sexual favors. “It’s also not unheard of in South Korea and Japan among men who run big businesses,” he says.
“It’s something they are into and I don’t know why.”
Then there was the joy brigade, or the pleasure squad, of Kim Jong Un’s father: Kim Jong Il’s harem of beautiful women who would entertain and delight the Supreme Leader with song and dance or sex. It was reported in 2015 that Kim Jong Un was bringing the practice back, but Madden disputes this.
“I don’t understand why these people don’t actually put something more accurate out there.”
Still the blame doesn’t rest solely with tabloids or South Korea, Madden says. Much can be put on the North Korean elite, who—for want of soap operas or reality television—often revert to the age-old hobby of gossiping to keep them occupied.
“Some of it comes from the gossip mill that exists in North Korea among the elite and those who work in Pyongyang. All of these outer figures, they basically gossip about the Kim family and leadership: who is sleeping with who, whose wife went to China for plastic surgery. The gossip mill becomes like a children’s game of telephone,” he says.
So there won’t be a Bachelorette, North Korea edition?
“They would never do that. It’s a funny idea and would make a great comedy bit, but it would never happen in North Korea,” Madden says.