The official announcement of North Korea’s nuclear test earlier this week was made by the distinctive voice of Ri Chun Hee. Make sure you take a listen to our audio to hear it:
Ri has been the face and voice of North Korean TV for more than 40 years. But who is she?
“She’s in her mid-70s now,” says Derek Hawkins, who wrote a profile of Ri for the Washington Post. “She is the news anchor that the North Korean regime trots out to make big announcements: things like missile tests, nuclear tests and national festivities.”
“If Ri Chun Hee says it, you know it’s really serious,” he adds.
“She’s probably best known for this deep, theatrical, melodramatic voice that she has,” says Hawkins. “This booming and sometimes even vitriolic voice with which she delivers the regime’s news.”
Ri has a particular look, too. “She’s very fond of these pink robes, these pink traditional two-piece robes. They’re earned her the title ‘Pink Lady.’” All female anchors on North Korean media favor the robes, “but she loves this vibrant pink color.”
Not a lot is known about Ri. It’s believed she was born in the early 1940s, probably to a poor family in the rural southeast of the country. She studied theater in Pyongyang but joined North Korean television in 1971 not long after it was launched. She became an anchor in 1974.
It’s assumed she has friends in high places, but no details are known for sure.
Hear more about Ri Chun Hee in Derek Hawkins' interview with The World, above.