Hyon Song Wol, the famous North Korean pop singer and alleged former girlfriend of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, recently made a speech at an artists' conference just nine months after she was supposedly executed.
The Washington Post reported
that this is just the latest example of the difficulty that goes along with accurately covering what's going on in the hermit nation.
Many news outlets, including Newsmax, reported in August
that Hyon Song Wol was executed by a firing squad without trial along with 11 of her bandmates from the country's popular Unhasu Orchestra. They were accused of making and distributing pornographic videotapes, which is illegal in North Korea.
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The original source, one of the largest newspapers in South Korea, Chosun Ilbo — a reputable publication — cited "sources in China" for the report about Hyon Song Wol. The stories claimed that she and the Supreme Leader had known each other for years because they dated long ago, but later married other people.
Because pornography crimes are not usually punished with such severity, many speculated that Kim Jong Un's wife, Ri Sol Ju — also a former singer with Unhasu Orchestra — had Hyon Song Wol executed for personal or political reasons, perhaps because she and the Supreme Leader were carrying on an affair.
The Post pointed out that many stories out of North Korea, no matter the reputation of the source, often turn out to be false in a matter of months or weeks after the initial report, when the vast majority of the audience has moved on.
"One problem with understanding North Korea is that few outside journalists can get any access. The Associated Press is the only Western news organization with a bureau there . . ." The Post wrote.
Like other foreign news agencies with a presence in the country, such as China's Xinhua News Agency, the AP has restricted access. The latest example of those restrictions surfaced Sunday, after North Korean news outlets reported on a major building collapse that may have killed hundreds of people May 13.
The story may have never been seen by the world if it weren't volunteered by the North Koreans themselves, and it appears foreign news outlets weren't given access until nearly a week after the incident.
Examples like this remind Western audiences to take each report about North Korea, including stories originating from the North Korean media itself, with a grain of salt.
"Even mainstream media in South Korea has repeatedly been wrong on these sensationalistic stories originating from the North," Steven Herman, formerly Voice of America's Korea correspondent, told Business Insider last year after reports of Hyon Song Wol's demise
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