North Korean singer “executed by firing squad” shows up alive and well in Pyongyang

Rumored to have been executed with 11 performers last August, singer shown talking Friday on national television
May 16th, 2014

North Korean singer Hyon Song Wol, rumored to have been executed by firing squad last year, was seen speaking at a convention in Pyongyang on Friday, pictures released by North Korean broadcaster KCTV have shown.

Dressed in a military uniform, Hyon was shown participating in the 9th National Convention of Artists in Pyongyang, Yonhap News Agency said.

Hyon came out as the first contestant, stressing a need for artists to be determined in creating their best for “their beloved army and people” against “the enemy”. 

Hyon’s portrayal on TV is the first visual evidence to support claims that she had not, as rumors went, been executed.

The rumor, which started last August in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, said that Hyon had been executed alongside eleven other “well known performers” for “violating North Korean laws against pornography”.

“They were executed with machine guns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on,” sources reportedly said at the time.

The article, which sourced the news to anonymous informants in China, rapidly went viral after publication, being replicated in scores of outlets worldwide.

Dubious and often wild stories about North Korea have been circulating with increased prominence since Kim Jong Un’s succession in 2011.

From claims that Kim Jong Un gave out copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf to officials on his birthday to rumors that Jang Song Thaek was killed by a pack of starving dogs, some of the biggest stories in the past year have been cited to nothing more than unnamed sources.

But while few of the wilder rumors been proven to be true, the closed and brutal nature of North Korea has made them correspondingly difficult to disprove.

“The problem is that the North’s lies are easily the equal of whatever balderdash the South wants to parlay to the world’s journalists,” Bruce Cumings, Swift Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Chicago, told NK News when asked about the increasing number of rumors ciruclating in North Korea last year.

READ MORE: Inside the North Korea Rumor Mill

Main picture: KCTV

Additional Reporting: Phebe Kim

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.