North Korean singer thought executed appears on state television

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Hyon Song-wol, a singer who was reportedly connected to Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, has made an appearance on state television Friday, contradicting reports she was executed last year by firing squad.

The singer appeared speaking at a national art workers rally in Pyongyang. She expressed her support for Kim's governance and her dedication to help “stoke up the flame for art and creative work”.

Hyon was first reported dead in August last year by South Korean newspapers, among them Chosun Ilbo with reported ties to South Korean intelligence services. She was reportedly executed along with eleven other performers for creating and distributing sex tapes of themselves, including performers from Unhasu Orchestra, the Wangjaesan Light Music Band, and the Moranbong Band.

Reports suggested Hyon had run afoul of Kim's wife, Ri Sol-ju. A report attributed to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun stated Hyon and the other performers were executed to suppress rumors Ri had behaved decadently during her time as an entertainer.

News of Hyon's execution was supported last October by Nam Jae-Joon, the director of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, who reportedly expressed awareness of an execution, according to two South Korean MPs, during a closed parliamentary session: "We are aware of the execution of some ten people associated with the Unhasu Orchestra." Reports said the execution was witnessed, as a mandatory lesson, by bands pioneering the "new wave" of music that rose to prominence in the country following the ascension of Kim Jong-un to North Korean leadership.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, disputed such reports, describing them as "unpardonable" and a "hideous provocation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership", further denouncing the South Korean government officials and journalists who issued them as "psychopaths" and "confrontational maniacs". During that time, North Korean radio broadcast an Unhasu Orchestra performance, seemingly to disprove the reports, but Hyon's execution was not disproved.

Prior to her supposed execution, Hyon had enjoyed popularity in North Korea; her songs included "The Footsteps of Soldiers", "I Love Pyongyang", and, notably, "Excellent Horse Like Lady". All three songs contained patriotic themes. Purportedly, Hyon was Kim Jong-un's girlfriend some years ago, but the relationship ended due to disapproval by Kim Jong-un's father, then-Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il and she later married and had a child with an army officer.