A story released by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo indicates that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un executed a dozen popular singers last week. Among the victims, the Chosun Ilbo writes, was Kim’s ex-girlfriend, the pop propaganda singer Hyon Song-wol.
Sources in China said singer Hyon Song-wol as well as Mun Kyong-jin, head of the Unhasu Orchestra, were arrested on Aug. 17 for violating North Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later.
The victims of the atrocity were members of the Unhasu Orchestra as well as singers, musicians and dancers with the Wangjaesan Light Music Band.
They were accused of videotaping themselves having sex and selling the videos. The tapes have apparently gone on sale in China as well.
A source said some allegedly had Bibles in their possession, and all were treated as political dissidents.
When Kim announced his marriage last year, many expected Hyon to be his betrothed. But that turned out not to be the case. The Atlantic detailed what we know about Kim’s relationship with Hyon:
One thing we did learn is that Kim’s wife is not, as long speculated, North Korean pop star Hyon Song Wol. Rumors — yes, we are reduced to rumors, and we’re to lucky to have even that — say that Kim and Hyon got involved a decade ago, but the relationship was shut down by then-leader Kim Jong Il. She hasn’t been seen publicly in years despite her high-profile music career; some observers speculate she had to leave the public eye in order to stay close to Kim Jong Un, or for her own safety as boyfriend Kim got closer to his father’s throne.
The simple fact that analysts still have to glean such basic information from years of obsessive analysis and speculation, as if they were the coordinates of uranium enrichment sites, tells you something about just how little we know about North Korea.
Kim’s current wife, Ri Sol-ju, also knew Hyon from her days in the orchestra. Here’s the Chosun Ilbo again:
Whether she had any hand in the executions is unclear. The Unhasu Orchestra and Wangjaesan Light Music Band have apparently been disbanded due to the latest scandal.
“They were executed with machine guns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on,” the source said.
Here, you can see Hyon Song-wol’s video, “Excellent Horse-Like Lady,” which won her some notoriety in the West and extolls the virtues of hard work. Messages of “rest in peace” have already started to flood in from YouTube commenters:
Kim ascended to power after his father died in 2011, and while his education outside of North Korea led to some hopes he would have a different leadership style, that hasn’t proven. ”The new leader is acting in ways a bit more extreme than his father, who was colder and more calculated,” one U.S. official told CNN earlier this year. Last fall, the Chosun Ilbo reported that Kim executed several military officials via body-obliterating mortar for not properly mourning Kim’s late father. The Washington Times reports:
The North Korean People’s Army uses Warsaw Pact 82 mm mortars that fire artillery shells that weigh as much as 7 pounds and produce a killing radius of about 17 yards on impact.
The officer was placed at the aiming point of a mortar range, where an artillery shell exploded and blew him to pieces, the newspaper reported.
The Chosun Il was the only outlet to report the mortar story, and so far, the only one to report on this latest atrocity. Unfortunately, it will probably remain that way. As New York Magazine writes:
Frustratingly, when dealing with news from inside the closed state, it’s both impossible to fully believe anonymously sourced reports such as this one, and often impossible to obtain anything more concrete.
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