5 Things To Know About North Korean Singer & Inter-Korean Delegate Hyon Song Wol

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In this photo provided by South Korea Unification Ministry, the head of North Korean delegation Kwon Hook Bong, center, and Hyon Song Wol, the head of the Moranbong Band, left, sit during the meeting with South Korea at the North side of Panmunjom in North Korea, 

She may not be part of any popular K-pop group, but Hyon Song Wol is a pop star in her own right: She’s one of the most prominent North Korean women in the world, and all eyes are currently on her at the recent Inter-Korean talks that began on Monday.

The discussions revolve around the participation of North Korean athletes, artists, and others in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games, and Hyon is seen as a major power player and representative of all North Korea’s artists.  While not a lot is known about North Korea in general, here’s what little is known about Hyon:

1. She is the most prominent member of Moranbong Band

The head of the all-female band from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Moranbong Band was first unveiled in 2012. The group, considered Kim Jong Un’s favorite, incorporated pop, rock, and other genres to turn North Korea's political and social ideologies into song-and-dance numbers backed by a live band. 

Moranbong Band is largely considered a propaganda tool of Kim Jong Un’s regime, designed to modernize the image of North Korea, as the performers typically wear mini-skirts and heels, and also frequently don military-style outfits. Moranbong Band’s international visibility is often seen as a political bellwether: when the group pulled out a concert in Beijing in 2015, it was seen by North Korea watchers as a message about the immediate relationship between the nation and China.

2. Hyon was coined the “Head of Orchestra” during the latest round of Inter-Korean talks

According to the Korea Herald, Hyon was referred to as the “head of orchestra” rather than being termed the leader of Moranbong Band. With songs glorifying both the Kim dynasty and North Korea itself, it is unclear what role Moranbong Band will have in the events surrounding Pyeongchang’s festivities; South Korea’s National Security Law deems all praise of North Korea and the regime illegal within the southern country's borders.

North Korea has agreed to send the 140-member Samjiyon Band to the Games, reports The New York Times

3. She is the most prominent woman involved in the talks

While both North and South Korea sent multiple delegates to participate in a meeting at the border village of Panmunjom on Monday, Hyon was the only female featured in photos of the historic meeting.  

4. Hyon once “returned” from the dead

First reported in 2013, Hyon was reportedly executed because she had either participated in and sold pornography -- or, and possibly in addition to, had possessed Bibles; she and others involved were allegedly treated as political dissidents. However, in 2014, the news was revealed to have been misreported, after Hyon was seen publicly for the first time giving a speech at a national artists' meeting. Much of the excitement revolving around Hyon’s alleged death surrounded her rumored former relationship with Kim Jong Un, who married Ri Sol Ju in 2009. Little is known about the enigmatic first family of North Korea.

5. She Is an "Excellent Horse-Like Lady"

One of Hyon's most successful songs was this equine number from 2005, which featured a music video that depicted Hyon as a factory employee working for the betterment of North Korea. While Moranbong Band's music is a bit more modernized sonically, "Excellent Horse-Like Lady" draws on older pop genres, including disco and trot.