In the News – Who is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s ‘mystery woman’

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In the News – Who is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s ‘mystery woman’

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) applauds during a demonstration performance by the newly formed Moranbong band in Pyongyang in this undated picture released by the North"s KCNA July 9, 2012
The mystery woman seen next to Kim Jong-un could be a former pop singer, Hyon Song-wol, reports say

It started with Mickey Mouse.

When North Korea’s state news agency published photos of the country’s leader Kim Jong-un at a concert recently, the first face to catch the attention was on stage.

Amid the dancers and North Korean pop starlets, were a selection of Disney characters – among them Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

And no, the news agencies here in Seoul reported, the North Korean regime had NOT cleared copyright with the Disney Corporation.

It was only hours later that attention switched to another face from that set of photographs – the grainy image of a dark-haired woman sitting next to the young North Korean leader.

The question of who she was, and what she was doing sitting next to the Stalinist regime’s young heir, buzzed through South Korea’s news media.

North Korean media gave no details, but showed her accompanying Kim Jong-un to various state occasions: bowing with him in front of his grandfather’s portrait to mark the 18th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s death, walking with him in a fitted black skirt suit and heels, and sitting next to him during the concert performances.

Screen grab taken from North Korean TV on July 9, 2012 shows an unidentified woman accompanying Kim Jong-Un (C) during his visit to Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang on July 8, 2012
There was also speculation that she could be his sister Yo-jong, of whom little is known

‘Wife or sister?’

The Hankyoreh newspaper here in the South said one picture taken during the performances showed the mystery woman with her hand on the armrest of Kim Jong-un’s chair.

The normal posture for those in Kim Jong-un’s entourage is to keep their elbows tucked respectfully in.

This, said the paper, indicated that she was either his wife, or his younger sister.

A similar discussion erupted six months ago, when an unnamed woman appeared beside Kim Jong-un during his father’s funeral commemorations.

It is not known whether Kim Jong-un – believed to be less than 30 years old – has married.

But North Korea’s two previous rulers did not routinely include their partners in public events, leading many to conclude that the new mystery woman is a family member.

‘Excellent Horse-Like Lady’

Not South Korea’s Joongang Ilbo newspaper, though. Its headline this week asked “Is Hyon the new first lady of NK?”

The paper identified Kim Jong-un’s companion as Hyon Song-wol, a former singer with North Korea’s Bochonbo Electronic Music Band, whose popularity, it says, peaked in 1995 with her hit song “Excellent Horse-Like Lady”.

Disney characters at North Korean concert
There are also unanswered questions about Kim Jong-un – Disney characters made an appearance at a recent North Korean concert

She reappeared to perform for the new North Korean leader in March this year, says the paper, after six years away from the limelight, during which time she reportedly married and had a child.

An unnamed South Korean intelligence official was quoted as saying that “the two have known each other since they were in their teens, and… rumours about the two having an affair have been circulating among Pyongyang’s top elite”.

If true, Seoul’s rumour mill goes, what does that say about the workings of North Korea’s new leadership – and more particularly, about the mind of its young leader?

Has Kim Jong-un chosen this smart young woman in western dress as his partner? Is he bucking hoary old tradition by appearing with her – perhaps still married – in public?

As usual, windows into North Korea throw up more questions than answers.

For now, ”mystery woman” she may remain.

But then, let us not forget, after six months in power, the man next to her – the heir to North Korea’s closed “Communist Monarchy” – is only slightly less of a mystery than she.

 

Original Article 

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Two Years Later

Amidst the frenzy of North Korea’s recent rocket launch, another very important day came and passed. For many of you, this may have been just another day in your life. But whether you knew it or not, March 26th marked the second anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship.

March 26th 2010 was just an average day for the 104 crew members of the Cheonan. They were on a routine patrol near Baekryong Island, which is an extremely tense maritime border with North Korea, when they were suddenly torpedoed. The ship tore apart into two and sank to the bottom of the sea, killing 46 soldiers. Continue reading

In the News – North Korean Heir Leads Funeral of Kim Jong Il

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In the News – North Korean Heir Leads Funeral of Kim Jong Il

PYONGYANG, North Korea December 28, 2011 (AP)

North Korea carried out a meticulously choreographed funeral for late leader Kim Jong Il on Wednesday and affirmed that the country was now in the “warm care” of his young son, extending the Kim family’s hold on power to a third generation.

Footage broadcast on North Korea’s state television showed Kim’s youngest son and successor Kim Jong Un walking next to his father’s hearse as it made its way slowly through cold, snowy Pyongyang. Dressed in a dark overcoat, he bowed his head slightly against the snow, and raised his right arm in salute.

Walking behind was Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law and a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission who is expected to play a crucial role in helping Kim Jong Un take power.

Tens of thousands of mourners stood in heavy snow as they passed by. Soldiers stood in lines with their heads bowed.

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AP

Kim Jong Il, who led the nation with an iron fist following his father Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, died of a heart attack Dec. 17 at age 69, according to state media. Kim Jong Un is already being hailed as the “supreme leader” of the party, state and army.

A private ceremony is believed to have been held earlier Wednesday in the inner sanctum of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace with Kim Jong Un and top military and party officials.

Foreign dignitaries in the city had been asked to gather at a sports stadium shortly before noon to be taken to Kumsusan to see the hearse pass at the start of the funeral procession through Pyongyang, according to a diplomat who asked that her name not be used due to the sensitivity of the details.

The young Kim made his public debut just last year with a promotion to four-star general and an appointment as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party.

But in the days since his father’s death, the campaign to install him as the next leader has been swift, with state media bestowing him with new titles, including “great successor,” ”supreme leader” and “sagacious leader.”

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Associated Press Korea bureau chief Jean H. Lee and writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. Follow Jean H. Lee at twitter.com/newsjean.

Original article can be found here.

Decoding Images from North Korea

This footage, seen by countless Americans on YouTube, leaves many with images that are easily misunderstood and are not easily decoded. To the common viewer, it most likely underlines the assumptions that Westerners already have of North Korea—that Kim Jong Il’s citizens loved him and Kim Il Sung and that the citizens have the same goals and ideals as the government. This footage, however, just like the propaganda videos broadcasting happy civilians, is state controlled, and therefore requires another look. The ultimate question is whether or not this act of grieving is voluntary or not, shedding light onto the real loyalty and culture of the citizens. Continue reading