North Korea sends pop star to talks with South Korea

Hyon Song Wol, a member of a girl group whose members were picked by Kim Jong-un, appeared as a delegate at talks over North Korea’s participation in this year’s Winter Olympics

Yesterday (January 15), North Korea sent a delegation to South Korea to discuss their participation in the Winter Olympics, which are taking place in Pyeongchang in February. As the Wall Street Journal reports, among the team sent by the North was one Hyon Song Wol, a North Korean pop singer who leads the state-sponsored girl group Moranbong Band.

Moranbong Band perform pop songs in matching skirts to an almost exclusively domestic audience, though they’re increasingly being used as a cultural export, having had performances scheduled for countries like China. Their members were selected by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, though Hyon Song Wol is the group’s most prominent member. According to reports, she was once rumoured to be dating Kim Jong-un, though analysts of North Korea have cast doubt on those claims. In 2013, South Korea’s intelligence agency said that she had been executed, though her appearance on North Korean state television in May 2014 proved that claim false.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said on Monday that following the talks two countries had come to an agreement regarding North Korea sending a 140-member orchestra to perform at the Winter Games, paving the way for further co-operation between the two countries. The Samjiyon Orchestra will perform in Seoul and in Gangneung, who are hosting ice events during the games.

Hyon Song Wol appeared on the request of North Korea’s officials, who told South Korea they’d send a pop star instead of a delegate. South Korean officials did not say whether she would accompany the orchestra to the Olympics.

Two years ago, diplomatic relations between North and South Korea were at the point where the latter country was blasting K-pop at the militarised border.

Few artists from the west have performed in North Korea, although there have been exceptions – avant-garde group Laibach played there in 2015, with the band telling Dazed that it was “a completely different world from anything you can imagine from a European perspective”.

Watch Moranbong Band perform on television below.