From the Archives:  North Korea leader’s ‘executed’ ex-girlfriend shows up alive on TV

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Yet another urban legend about North Korea bites the dust.

The ex-girlfriend of leader Kim Jong Un, reportedly executed by firing squad last year, turned up apparently alive and well on a state television broadcast Friday night.

Hyon Song Wol, a singer with an all-female band, was reported to be one of 10 to 12 people executed in August by firing squad, as the story claimed, for performing in pornographic videos sold in China.

But there she was Friday shown speaking at a national meeting of artists in Pyongyang, where she thanked Kim for his support of the arts and promised to “stoke up the flame for art and creative work.’’


Her execution had first been reported by Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper known for its staunchly anti-Communist views and its criticism of North Korea.

“Kim Jong Un has been viciously eliminating anyone who he deems a challenge to his authority,” the newspaper reported in August, citing unnamed sources.

Since the report of her demise first appeared, North Korea watchers have debated its veracity. Many analysts believe that the executions did take place, but that Hyon was not among the defendants.

Hyon, a member of the Unhasu orchestra, reportedly dated the 30-year-old Kim Jong Un when he was in his early 20s. He subsequently married another former member of the orchestra, Ri Sol Ju.

By dint of its secrecy and eccentricity, North Korea is an ideal breeding ground for outrageous rumors, often involving exotic methods of torture and execution. Last year, a story went viral that Kim Jong Un’s purged uncle, Jang Sung Taek, had been stripped naked and devoured alive by a pack of hungry dogs. Jang indeed had been executed, but there was no evidence backing up the hungry dog story, which had originated with a rumor on a Chinese microblog site.

“North Korea is an information hard-target, to be sure. Something about its media-resistant nature, along with several other factors, gives rise to all manner of rumors, some mundane, some bizarre, some of significance,’’ wrote Korea expert Andray Abrahamian of Chosun Exchange, an educational exchange organization, in an article published on the website


So much news-of-the-weird has sprung out of North Korea that the website tabulated what it called the “Top 10 most bizarre rumors to spread about North Korea.”

Among the winners: North Korean scientists have discovered evidence that unicorns actually exist. Kim Jong Il (the former leader) hit 18 holes-in-one the first time he played golf. A North Korean missile landed in Alaska.

And Kim Jong Il kidnapped a South Korean film director to make his own Godzilla film.

Well, that last rumor actually turned out to be true.