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Asia-pacific

Kim Jong-un’s 'mystery woman' sparks global curiosity

©

Text by Stéphanie TROUILLARD

Latest update : 2012-07-12

A mystery woman seen accompanying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to public engagements in Pyongyang last weekend has got the world asking whether she is his sister, his mistress or even his wife.

A young, smartly dressed woman seen accompanying Kim Jong-un to various public events last weekend has sparked global curiosity over the North Korean leader’s love life. While some believe the “mystery woman” to be Kim’s younger sister, others claim that the she is a famous pop singer who dated Kim a decade ago before his late father barred them from seeing each other.

The mystery companion attended two events last weekend during which she remained by Kim Jong-un’s side, but North Korean media failed to enlighten the curious outside world as to who she might be. Since Kim Jon-un took on the role of Supreme Leader following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, last December, he has never been seen accompanied by a woman. So little is known about the new ruler’s personal life – down to his age – that some media believe the woman may even be his wife.

Pop-singing mistress?

South Korea’s Joongang Daily claims that the woman in question appears to be Hyon Song-wol, a former singer from North Korean pop group Bochonbo Electronic Music Band. The group’s biggest hit, entitled “Excellent Horse-Like Lady”, shows Hyon dressed as a communist factory worker.

POPSTRESS WITH A MESSAGE

The article quotes a source from the South Korean secret service, describing a long-term affair which began some ten years ago. After Kim’s father forced the pair to separate, it says, Hyon married a North Korean army officer with whom she had a child. But following the death of Kim Jong-il in December last year, the alleged lovers reunited. The paper attests to the striking resemblance between the “mystery woman” and pop singer Hyon Song-wol. But what happened to Hyon’s husband or young child is unclear.

Illicit half-sister?

For others, the idea that Kim has casually introduced his mistress into the public sphere seems unrealistic. In an interview with AFP, Yang Moo-jin of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies suggested that she may be “a daughter of one of the mistresses of the late Kim Jong-il,” who Kim Jong-un has brought into the limelight in order to “showcase the solidarity in the ruling family.”

Another theory that Yang finds credible is that the mystery woman is Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yeo-jong, who studied with him in Berne, Switzerland in the 1990s.

An American musical for Kim and his mysterious friend

Secret wife?

But a love story seems to be the most hoped-for ending, with some keen to believe that the “mystery woman” is in fact Kim’s wife. It is very rare for North Korean leaders to even publicly speak of their wives (in June 1994, Kim Il-sung surprised the media when he arrived at a meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter accompanied by his second wife).

Japanese Professor Toshimitsu Shigemura from Waseda University told British daily The Telegraph that the recent appearance of Kim’s companion could mean the new leader has adopted a fresh approach. “It is highly possible that this is his wife and that Kim is trying to show a new style of leadership, of a husband and wife, in North Korea,” Shigemura said.

By allowing the public an insight into his private life, the new leader could be trying to convey the start of a softer, more personal regime – a far cry from the stern, distant approach of both his father and grandfather. But whether his companion turns out to be his sister, mistress or wife remains to be seen. For the time being, the North Korean authorities have kept their lips sealed concerning her identity.
 

Date created : 2012-07-11

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