North Korea's Kim Jong Un Promotes Ex-Girlfriend to Top Government Job

Kim Jong Un's alleged ex-girlfriend, Hyon Song-wol, was promoted to the central committee of North Korea's ruling political party this week. Getty Images

Kim Jong Un's alleged ex-girlfriend, Hyon Song-wol, was promoted to the central committee of North Korea's ruling political party this week.

Hyon, who was once falsely rumored to have been executed for starring in a pornographic video, is the leader of the all-female music group Moranbong Band and a huge celebrity in North Korea. She was promoted this week alongside several others, including Kim's mysterious sister, Kim Yo Jong, just days before the anniversary of the founding of North Korea's communist party, on October 10. 

"Hyon Song-wol is a very famous pop singer, but that also means that she's a leading propaganda official," Michael Madden, an expert in North Korea's leadership, tells Newsweek. "Hyon is probably leading several music groups and that would definitely recommend her for promotion. She might do other things, but that's what we know."

It's fairly standard for prominent individuals involved in propaganda and the performing arts to be elevated politically in North Korea, according to Madden, who describes Hyon as an "up-and-comer."

Hyon has been promoted to an alternate member (as opposed to a full member) of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party. This means she can attend meetings and participate in debates, but is not able to vote. 

There's no concrete evidence Hyon dated the North Korean leader—who is now married to Ri Sol-ju—but it's entirely possible. Kim would've been highly monitored as a young man in terms of dating. "[North Korea] is a very, very sexually conservative culture. The dating and marriage practices in the Korean peninsula can be kind of old-timey," says Madden. 

Kim's wife was reportedly upset about his alleged affair with Hyon, but her lack of political power means there's nothing she can do if she's also perturbed by the pop star's recent elevation in the ruling party. With that said, Madden suspects there's "no chance" Hyon would've been promoted if there was an ongoing sex scandal involving Kim. 

It's also not confirmed Hyon starred in a pornographic video, but that's also in the realm of possibility. "North Korean elites make porn. They watch porn. That happens. Whether Hyon Song-wol was involved is a different question," according to Madden. 

There are also rumors Hyon may had a sexual relationship with Kim's executed uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was known to be a womanizer. But, like much of the information coming out of North Korea, this is hard to confirm. 

These types of rumors typically come from top officials who closely watch the ruling family and spread gossip to foreign visitors. "They watch the activities of the Kim family the way people watch reality shows.... That's where a lot of information emerges.... Those people talk amongst themselves and then talk to foreign traders, etc.," Madden says. Such shady information tends to end up in some of the more dubious South Korean newspapers, and is then spread to the wider world. 

In Hyon's case, the rumor she'd been executed was squashed when she appeared on state television in May 2014