Softening Kim Jong-un’s Image

The recent news out of North Korea that Kim Jong-un had his uncle "involuntarily martyred" for his "indiscretions" was cause for some concern among the world's diplomatic community with even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry weighing in.  What we seem to forget is that this type of activity seems to be business-as-usual in one of the world's most closed states.

 
Back in 2012, this photograph of Kim Jong-un and an unidentified woman attending a Disneyesque performance was making the rounds:
 
 
The same woman was seen on DPRK television accompanying Kim as he toured Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang, paying tribute to Kim's grandfather Kim Il-sung as shown on this screen capture from a DPRK news video:
 
 
Some North Korean experts suggested that the presence of a female companion was used to "soften" Kim's image and make him more "human-like".
 
Well, it appears that the lucky woman was Hyon Song-wol, a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra.  Kim Jong-un and Hyon Song-wol met in the early 2000s after she had completed her schooling in Bern, Switzerland.  The two became an item, much to the displeasure of then leader Kim Jong-il who ordered the relationship terminated.  After the death of his father in 2011, Kim Jong-un rekindled their relationship and apparently, this was not well received by Kim's wife, Ri Sol-ju, also a performer in the Unhasu Orchestra prior to her marriage.
 
Hyon Song-wol was well known in North Korea for such hits as Excellent Horse-like Lady:
 
 
…and the hit "A Girl in the Saddle of a Steed:
 
 
As an aside, it is interesting that, when I tried to embed the YouTube video of the same song from the DPRK Music Channel, embedding is disabled.
 
According to a news source in China and South Korea's main daily newspapers Chosun Ilbo, a video that was branded "pornographic" by North Korean officials led to the arrests of 12 members of the Unhasu Orchestra and Wangjaesan Light Music Band, including the aforementioned Hyon Song-wol in mid-August 2013.  The twelve were accused of distributing pornography of them having sex and possessing Bibles, a political crime in North Korea.  Hyon Song-wol and her fellow performers were killed by machine gun fire in front of their families and other orchestra members and it is believed that their family members were shipped off to work camps, a typical punishment for family members of accused criminals.
 
So much for "softening" Dear Leader's image.
 
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