Former head of North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra Hyon Song Wol has taken up a role as a vice director at the North Korean ruling party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD), state media reports and analysis by NK News‘s sister site NK Pro appeared to confirm on Tuesday.
Coverage of 2019’s inaugural “mass games” concert in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) saw DPRK leader Kim Jong Un accompanied by a number of prominent figures, including reported first vice director of the PAD Kim Yo Jong.
DPRK media, which typically names state officials in order of prominence, listed Hyon Song Wol, Kwon Hyok Pong, and Jang Ryong Sik after Ri Yong Sik, who serves as PAD first vice director.
Hyon, Kyon, and Jang’s positions are unlikely to be formally confirmed: North Korea does not typically reveal party department affiliations, Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK Pro, said.
“We inferred their affiliation and rank based on past DPRK state media reports, the order in which their names appear on the listing of officials, and their background,” Lee, who first noticed the report and detailed the changes for NK News, said.
“We should also note that Kim Yo Jong and Ri Yong Sik are presumed to be the only two first vice directors of PAD, but that there may be more than these three vice directors in PAD,” she continued. “It is normal for any North Korean ministry or department to have multiple vice minister- and vice director-level officials.”
“While today’s report does not identify her affiliation either, her name immediately follows Kim Yo Jong and Ri Yong Sik, who are confirmed as PAD first vice directors.”
The report comes amid what appears to be a growing political role for Hyon, most famous for having been reportedly executed in 2014 only to appear alive and well in Pyongyang months later.
She has in the past few years been at the forefront of Pyongyang’s cultural diplomacy, leading a delegation of North Korean artists in a visit to South Korea last year and accompanying Kim Jong Un on multiple trips abroad.
State media during a visit by the DPRK leader to China in January referred to Hyon as a “vice director of a WPK CC party department” — the first time she had appeared with that title. April also saw her promoted from alternate member to member of the Central Committee.
She then appeared alongside Kim Jong Un at an on-the-spot guidance visit over the weekend, touring the 250-mile Journey for Learning Schoolchildren’s Palace in the DPRK’s north-western Jagang province.
Kwon Hyok Pong and Jang Ryong Sik — also seemingly PAD vice directors — also have backgrounds in North Korea’s cultural scene, analyst Lee pointed out.
Kwon was previously named as serving as a “bureau director of the Ministry of Culture,” she said, before appearing with the title “vice director of a WPK CC party department” in April last year.
Jang, for his part, is a former chief conductor of the State Symphony Orchestra and a former director and chief conductor of the State Merited Choir, and appears to have been promoted around January this year.
Their elevation sees them all take up powerful roles in the PAD, an organization believed to have direct control over swathes of the North Korean state’s media output.
Several of its top officials, including Kim Yo Jong, were in December last year sanctioned by the U.S. for involvement in work perpetuating “the regime’s brutal state-sponsored censorship activities, human rights violations and abuses, and other abuses in order to suppress and control the population.”
Edited by Colin Zwirko
Featured image: Ministry of Unification (MOU)