A woman said to be a former lover of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was among a group of 12 political dissidents who were allegedly executed by machine gun just last week. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports that Hyon Song-wol, and 11 other well-known musicians were shot down by public firing squads on August 20, after they were accused of making and distributing pornographic videos of themselves.
According to long-standing rumors Hyon and Kim had a romantic relationship several years ago, but were forced to break it off by his father, Kim Jong-il. However, she continued in her prominent position as a singer in the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, known across North Korea for its patriotic music. (She also became an internet sensation several years ago, after the video for the pro-worker anthem "Excellent Horse-Like Lady" turned up online.) The others were all members of two other famous acts, the Unhasu Orchestra and the Wangjaesan Light Music Band. She was even seen on state TV just this month.
Like most stories out of the Hermit Kingdom, the full truth of their relationship and Hyon's supposed death may never be known, but the details that come with the story only increase the intrigue. The group was accused of violating laws against pornography, but were also accused of possessing Christian Bibles, which would be illegal, but very contradictory. It's more likely that those were excuses for the regime to eliminate what they considered either a political or personal threat. As an additional bit of gossip, Kim's wife was once a member of the Unhasu Orchestra and so had a personal connection to all of the victims.
Or the whole thing may be apocryphal rumor cooked up to demonstrate the barbarity of the regime. According to the Chosun Ilbo report, all the members of the victims' families were forced to watch the executions, before they themselves were sent to prison camps for punishment by association. Not that such punishments would be out of character for the regime. In their reporting of story, The Telegraph added the grisly tale of a high-ranking military officer executed last year "by mortar." He was allegedly forced to stand in a field and hit with an artillery shell to leave "no trace of him behind."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.