Reports that musician Hyon Song Wol, Kim Jong Un's former lover, has been executed along with 12 of her bandmates
by a machine gun firing squad after being accused of violating pornography laws, beg the question of whether there was a political motive behind the unusually harsh punishment.
The reputable South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo reported Thursday that Hyon
, a singer in North Korea's most popular band, Unhasu Orchestra, was executed publicly along with her bandmates for reportedly creating sex tapes and selling them, which is illegal in North Korea.
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Hyon was first identified as Kim Jong-un’s old flame 13 months ago, in July 2012, The Independent reported
. The poised and elegant musician accompanied the North Korean dictator to a concert in Pyongyang and ascended the stage with him to applaud the performers. One month later, however, she vanished from the scene as abruptly as she had arrived.
On Aug. 17, Hyon and her bandmates were arrested for selling pornographic materials they had reportedly filmed. Just three days later, the group of 13 was killed. Other musicians linked to the 12 who allegedly died were forced to watch the execution and then sent to labor camps, which is part of the reclusive regime’s policy of collective punishment, the Independent reported.
Kim Jong Un and Hyon reportedly met 10 years ago, and have been on and off ever since, unconfirmed reports say. Rumors among North Korean residents have been swirling that Kim Jong Un carried out an affair with Hyon since he has been married to Ri Sol-ju, another woman who had performed with Hyon in Unhasu Orchestra. Hyon was also married, to a military officer, with whom she had a child.
Whether Kim Jong Un's wife had anything to do with the ordering of Hyon's execution is unclear. But Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong-il, did not like Hyon and reportedly told his son to break up with her years ago. For this reason, experts say there was definitely a political reason behind the grisly killing, as public execution, taken in swift measures as in this case, is an unusually harsh punishment for pornography in North Korea.
“If these people had only made pornographic videos, then it is simply not believable that their punishment was execution. They could have been made to disappear into the prison system instead,” Professor Toshimitsu Shigemura of Waseda University in Tokyo told The Daily Telegraph.
"There is a political reason behind this," he said, suggesting that the groups may have been leaning towards a rival faction in Pyongyang's shadowy political world.
Additionally, Hyon has become very famous over the years in her musical group, which might have made Ri Sol-ju feel threatened.
"Or, as Kim's wife once belonged to the same group, it is possible that these executions are more about Kim's wife," Professor Shigemura added.
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