Kim Jong Un and a mystery woman clap at a performance in Pyongyang, July 6, 2012. (Korean Central News Agency)
Who is she?
That's what people around the world want to know about a mysterious young woman who appeared with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a pair of events over the weekend.
The woman first appeared with Kim on North Korean state television on Sunday at a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of his grandfather and North Korea founder Kim Il Sung's death. She is believed to be the same woman shown in a photograph released by the Korea News Service on Monday showing Kim and others clapping during a July 6 performance by new Moranbong band in Pyongyang. (The unusual performance included appearances by Disney characters—including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Winnie the Pooh—not often seen in North Korea, which traditionally shuns entertainment of the West.)
The mystery woman sparked a crush of media coverage in South Korea, where some speculate that she could be Kim's younger sister or wife. No official details about her identity have been released.
According to London's Telegraph, "South Korean intelligence sources" say the woman is Hyon Song Wol, a singer "who used to front the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band" and "responsible for a string of hits that included 'Footsteps of Soldiers,' 'I Love Pyongyang,' 'She is a Discharged Soldier' and 'We are Troops of the Party.'"
Her popularity "peaked in 2005 with the song 'Excellent Horse-Like Lady,'" the Telegraph said, adding:
Hyon subsequently disappeared from public view at the time that Kim emerged as the heir-apparent to his father, Kim Jong Il.
There are reports that 28-year-old Kim Jong Un was ordered to break off his relationship with Hyon by his father and that she later married an officer in the North Korean army with whom she has a baby.
The North Korean government is notoriously secretive when it comes to its leaders. It took more than a day to announce the death of Kim Jong Il in December. And as the Associated Press points out, little personal information is known about Kim himself, though he is thought to be in his late 20s. Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was born in 1987, the AP said.
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