Who Is Kim Jong Un’s Mystery Woman?

As North Korea stays silent on the woman seen publicly with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, the rest of the world is clamoring to find out her identity

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REUTERS / KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a mystery woman applaud during a performance by the Moranbong band in Pyongyang in this undated picture released by the North's KCNA on July 9, 2012

Sister? Lover? Girlfriend? Wife? Speculation is mounting over the identity of a mystery woman and the nature of her relationship with Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, with whom she has been spotted on a number of public engagements. The short-haired woman, dressed smartly in a black suit, is thought to be in her 20s.

(PHOTOS: The Dictator’s Bride: Kim Jong Un Debuts His First Lady)

The South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo speculates that the woman may be his sister, Kim Yeo Jong. “Born in 1987, Yeo Jong is now in her mid-20s,” an article posted on its website read. “She apparently went to a school in Switzerland along with Jong Un in the 1990s.”

However, South Korean intelligence experts have identified the woman as Hyon Song Wol, the former front woman of the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band and a married mother whom they believe is having an affair with the North Korean leader.

(MORE: Kim Jong Un Has a New Theme Song)

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band produced several hit singles that were “hugely popular among theNorth Korean masses,” but Hyon “disappeared from public view at the time that Mr. Kim emerged as the heir-apparent to his father Kim Jong Il.” Hyon reappeared in public to perform at a concert in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in early March to mark International Women’s Day.

Rumors of the affair have reportedly been circulating for some time. Kim Jong Un is believed to have begun a romance with the singer a decade ago, but was forced to end the relationship by his father. She is then said to have married a North Korean army officer and given birth to his child. Nothing is known of the current whereabouts of Hyon’s husband and child, or whether she even remains married.

(GRAPHIC: The Kim Family Tree)

However, others speculate that the woman is in fact Kim Jong Un’s wife, a view shared by Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in South Korea, an expert on North Korea, who thinks it highly implausible that the Supreme Leader would so publicly reveal his girlfriend. He told CNN that her presence is likely a part of a carefully constructed campaign to appear “much more approachable, humanlike and soft on people” in order to distance Kim Jong Un from his father and predecessor.

Lankov added that Kim Jong Un “travels much more than his father and even [more] than his grandfather. He likes to hug everybody, physically hug. In this regard it’s probable he decided that it might be a good idea to hint that he does have a wife.” If the woman is his wife, then it would mark a significant departure to the secrecy with which his father and grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, cloaked their personal lives. Lankov noted, “When his grandfather’s first wife, if you like, the founding mother of the dynasty, was alive, her name was never, never mentioned in media. Her existence was never even hinted at.”

(PHOTOS: A Rare Look Inside North Korea)

Likewise, Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Waseda University in Tokyo and author of a number of publications on North Korean leadership, told the Daily Telegraph, “It is highly possible that this is his wife and that Kim is trying to show a new style of leadership, of a husband and wife, in North Korea.” Shigemura also observed that Kim Jong Un had been uncharacteristically quiet in the weeks leading up to the woman’s sudden appearance.

Earlier this year he engaged in a large number of high-profile appearances, in an attempt to shore up his position as North Korea’s new leader, following the death of his father in December. It is possible, Shigemura said, that his recent silence could be the result of behind-the-scenes preparations concerning how to publicly introduce his spouse.

The mystery woman was first seen with Kim Jong Un watching a performance of North Korea’s Moranbong band at a theater in Pyongyang on Friday. (The performance included the appearance of various Disney characters, which the Walt Disney Co. confirms were used without its permission.) On Sunday, North Korean state TV showed the woman standing beside the Supreme Leader during a ceremony to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the death of his grandfather.

PHOTOS: David Guttenfelder: A New Look Inside North Korea

24 comments
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ssanam
ssanam

"Curiosity killed the cat".

IonOtter
IonOtter

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hard
hard

According to North Korean media, the only North Korean female  that is allowed to show "emotions" is Kim Jung Il's daughter.  In North Korea women are not allowed to express thier emotions without SEVERE punishment.

hard
hard

How does one say "Woman paid for sexual realations" in North Korean?

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd

Its actually Ruper Murdoch's wife - she decided to go for someone younger

max_cady
max_cady

You are all wrong its his sister, cant you see the family resemblance.

scallywag
scallywag

A misguided love story full of decadence and moral stupor or just another convoluted Hollywood type escapade designed to keep us Westerners entranced in the beguiling lifestyle of an aspiring media legend yet to be? Who can be sure…?

http://scallywagandvagabond.co...

 

Andrew Langat
Andrew Langat

I have been wondering where my Ex went to.....

Sam Park
Sam Park

on a serious note here, it's got to be his sister.  I've seen the music video of Hyon Song Wol and yes, people may get plastic surgery in North Korea, but the ears have caught my eye.  This picture and the music video of her ears don't match.  And when you take a good look at this picture, you can see alot of the resemblance matching Kim Jong-Un.  

So my definite speculation is, it's his sister.  Kim Jong-Il never showed his women and I think Kim Jong-Un won't either. 

DjWeideman
DjWeideman

Looks like Katie Holmes landed on her feet.

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eldave
eldave

It's Margaret Cho.

Nicolas Martin
Nicolas Martin

Doubtful. He would quickly tire of Margaret Cho's incessant victimhood whining.

midwaygray
midwaygray

I was going to read this and inform myself of the hubbub then stopped at the typo in the first sentence. Really, time magazine? Some part of me actually respected you, idk why, until today. This is my first and last online visit. Kudos to your covers however, on average you seem to hire quite talented photographers.

smooth edward
smooth edward

She the girl who played Daniel-San's girlfriend in Karate Kid ii back in the 80s. The movie just opened there. She plays to his vanity by calling him Kim Jong Um-m-m-m-m-m, and licking her lips.

jethromayham
jethromayham

That woman is his nanny and security guard.

Theisse
Theisse

Its either Katie Holmes or Ann Curry...