SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean television presenter Ri Chun Hee has for years announced the biggest news in her own effusive style, and this week she returned to the airwaves to herald Kim Jong Un’s historic meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
“The historic meeting pioneered a new history,” Ri said on Wednesday, wearing her traditional pink Korean dress and flashing a wide smile.
“The great leader of our party, the nation, and military, Kim Jong Un, adopted a joint statement with the president of the United States.”
Kim’s summit with Trump in Singapore on Tuesday was the first meeting between sitting leaders of the two countries.
In recent years, Ri has taken a high-profile role in publicising North Korea’s tests of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.
Late last year, for example, she announced North Korea’s test of what it said was a hydrogen bomb, telling viewers it was a “perfect success”.
With the test of an intercontinental ballistic missile with the range to strike anywhere in the United States, “the state nuclear force” was complete, she gushed.
This year, however, Ri’s broadcasts have charted the easing of tension. She reported in April on the first summit between North and South Korea in a decade, and then on Trump’s meeting with Kim.
“The supreme leader cherishes her voice and North Koreans notice it as well, so there is no reason for Kim Jong Un to replace someone who has been called a treasure in North Korea,” said Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector who now lives in South Korea.
“Even if the North Korean regime opens their country for revolution, this announcer will declare that decision.”
Ri famously wept on air when announcing the death of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung in 1994.
When his son, Kim Jong Il, died in 2011, it was Ri - clad in black funeral clothes and her voice quavering - who delivered the news to North Koreans.
Despite officially retiring in 2012, Ri has come back from time to time to make big announcements.
Ri’s image has often appeared on South Korean coverage of major events in North Korea, meaning some South Koreans, associating her with ominous developments, dread her appearance.
“Whenever I see her on TV, I always think that North Korea had made trouble again,” said Jun Seung-ho, who works at a travel agency in Seoul.
“I feel uncomfortable seeing her on news although I know that she’s been presenting North Korean news for a long time.”
Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel