North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un baffled some diplomats after inviting one of his country’s most recognizable pop stars to his recent meeting in Singapore with President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Hyon Song-wol, a well-known singer and the leader of the country’s Samjiyon Orchestra, was among the 100-strong North Korean delegation sent to Singapore that included dozens of high-level diplomats and support staff.
The 46-year-old singer was formerly the leader of the Moranbong girl band supervised directly by Kim himself, with some speculating the pair might have had a relationship. She also holds a political role as a member of Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee and is ranked as a colonel in the Korean People’s Army of the North.
She was first spotted on Monday dressed in black and wearing sunglasses in the lobby of the St Regis Hotel, where Kim is staying. Other members of the North Korean entourage include Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong, his right-hand man Kim Yong-chol, senior diplomat and interpreter Choe Son-hui, and the regime’s foreign affairs minister Ri Su-yong.
It is not the first time that Hyon has participated in North Korea’s recent diplomatic charm offensive. In February, she traveled to Seoul as part of the delegation tasked with promoting peace initiatives between the two countries.
After arriving in the South Korean capital by train, Singapore’s Straits Times noted that she “smiled and waved to a crowd at the train station before a group of anti-North protestors staged a noisy rally.”
She was also an integral part of the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics, performing herself in South Korea and leading an orchestra that performed during the games.
In 2013, Hyon was subject to rumors that she had been executed at the demand of Kim Jong-un. The South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo reported that she was executed in front of various other musical bands. Pyongyang denied the reports and she was seen alive days later.
The meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un appears to have been successful, with the two countries signing a declaration to “establish new U.S. – DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the population of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.”