People: Kim keeps it all in the family

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ONE of North Korea's many mysterious figures made a brief appearance in the limelight, thanks to Jimmy Carter's visit. Kim Song Ae, wife of President Kim Il Sung, made what was probably her first appearance on Western television when CNN captured her cruising on the Taedong River with her husband and Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

Kim Song Ae, whose age is unknown, projected the image of a demure wife in her spectacles and light blue chima-chogori suit. But she has long been a member of the standing committee of parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly, and head of the Korean Democratic Women's Union.

Her rare appearance last Friday has led to speculation about a change in North Korea's political landscape. Kim Song Ae has at times been regarded as a political rival to her step-son, Kim Jong Il, her husband's heir-apparent.

Kim Il Sung's younger brother, Yong Ju, made a comeback last year after 20 years in the political wilderness. Kim Song Ae's second son, Pyong Il, who has been posted mostly abroad as a diplomat, and who is widely seen as a possible threat to Jong Il, returned home in April.

The changes have led analysts to wonder whether the 'Great Leader' was trying to consolidate his regime by mobilising his entire family - or finding an alternative successor.

PERU'S First Lady conveyed a message to her husband in a television interview: cool the power trip. Susana Higuchi Fujimori said President Alberto Fujimori should reduce his authoritarian manner and pay more attention to the country's social needs. 'Power is associated with authoritarianism, which up to a point is positive, but it should not be taken to excess,' she said. Mr Fujimori, his wife said, sees the positive while she sees 'millions of people living in absolute misery'.

AS AN IDOL of many gay men, Barbra Streisand was thrilled to be performing on a New York concert stage this week as the city played host to the Gay Games. 'I can walk down the street and not be recognised because there are so many impersonators,' she said. 'I passed two people on Broadway today, and the man said, 'Look, there's Barbra Streisand.' And the woman said, 'That's the 10th time you've said that today. This one isn't even close.' '