Let’s begin with the disclaimer right up front: Like any story coming out of North Korea, we’re about to be dealing with unconfirmed reports and unnamed sources. Ultimately, few people know exactly what happens within the borders of the Hermit Kingdom, which I suppose is why we call it that. So while the latest rumors coming out of Asia are impossible to resist, let us proceed with caution. (With that in mind notice how many times everyone has to drop an “allegedly,” “reportedly,” “apparently,” etc. to advance the story.)
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo grabbed the Internet’s attention this morning with a loosely-sourced report that a female pop star long rumored to be the former lover of Kim Jong-un was among a dozen political dissidents who were executed by a firing squad last week. Their crime: allegedly filming and distributing pornographic videos of themselves.
The paper, citing unnamed sources in China, reports that singer Hyon Song-wol and 11 other entertainers were arrested on August 17 for violating North Korea’s laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later. The report also adds that the families of the executed were forced to watch, and “appear to have been sent to prison camps under North Korea’s barbaric principle of guilt by association.”
According to long-swirling rumors, Hyon and Kim became romantically involved about a decade ago, but Kim was forced to end things by his father, the late Kim Jong-il. Hyon, however, continued on in her high-profile position as a singer in the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, eventually becoming something of a minor Internet sensation after a video for the pro-worker anthem “Excellent Horse-Like Lady” turned up online. Her band, according to the Telegraph, was also responsible for such classics as: “Footsteps of Soldiers,” “I Love Pyongyang,” “She is a Discharged Soldier” and “We are Troops of the Party.”
In case this story wasn’t sensational enough for you, the Telegraph speculates that Kim’s current wife, who was also a popular singer prior to marrying him, may have “objected to the continuing high profile of her husband’s former girlfriend,” and pushed for the execution.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that an unbelievable* story out of North Korea proves to be just that. So given everything we don’t know, let’s end with the one thing we do: Here is Hyon Song-wol performing the “Excellent Horse-Like Lady.”
*Update: I originally described the story as “too-good-to-be-true,” a regrettable choice of words I intended to describe the sensational nature of the unconfirmed stories that routinely come out of North Korean. Upon another reading, I see it comes off as tone-deaf. There’s nothing “too good” about reports of a dozen people being executed. Apologies.