[Newsmaker] Hyon Song-wol, Moranbong Band leader and more

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Jan 15, 2018 - 16:02
  • Updated : Jan 16, 2018 - 10:30

Amid inter-Korean talks on North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics on Monday, attention has turned to Hyon Song-wol, who leads the Moranbong Band, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s favored performance troupe.

Inter-Korean working-level talks on North Korean art troupe’s participation in the Winter Games convened at the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjeom after Pyongyang last week agreed to send a delegation including athletes, an art troupe, journalists and high-ranking officials to the sporting event to be held next month in the South.

Hyon Song-wol, chief of the Moranbong Band (left picture); Members of North Korea`s Moranbong Band arrive at an airport in Beijing to return to the North, Saturday. ( Yonhap)
Hyon, who is alleged to enjoy Kim's trust, was among the North’s delegation to Monday’s talks, triggering speculation that Hyon and her famed Moranbong Band may attend the PyeongChang Games. The 10-member band, handpicked by Kim in 2012, performs Western-style propaganda songs idolizing Kim.

Hyon arrived at Panmunjeom in a navy blue suit with a badge featuring Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea, and Kim Jong-il, Kim's father, on her chest. In photos taken at the meeting, she is seen slightly leaning toward a table and gazing at the South Korean delegates with her hair tied back.

During the talks, Hyon’s status was as “the head of orchestra” -- not head of the Moranbong Band.

Moranbong Band has been used by Pyongyang in its efforts to improve ties with neighboring countries. In December 2015, the band traveled to Beijing for a performance, but abruptly canceled it after Chinese officials’ asked the group not to show images featuring Pyongyang’s long-range missiles with the performance.

There are concerns over Moranbong Band's possible performance of songs praising Kim and his regime at the Olympic Games, which could be in violation of the South’s National Security Law. The law bans praise of the North here.

Hyon, who is believed to be in her 40s, was rumored to have been romantically involved with Kim in the early 2000s. She was also once falsely rumored to have been purged, or executed, in 2013 for starring in a pornographic video.

In 2017, she was appointed as an alternate member to the central committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. She holds the rank of colonel in the Korean People’s Army of the North.

Hyon and the members of her band garnered international attention by wearing short skirts, tank tops and high heels while playing Western tunes. The band has performed at a slew of major North Korean events and has been touring North Korea since last year.

By Ock Hyun-ju (