The ongoing drama of North Korea’s ruling dynasty has taken another twist with reports of a mystery power shift in the supreme leader's Kim Jong-un inner circle.
It appears his wife and ambitious sister have been pushed out by a former lover – one of the country's leading pop stars.
The two other women in Kim’s life, his wife, Ri Sol-ju and his sister Kim Yo-jong, seem to have been sidelined as the glamorous Hyon Song-wol is increasingly seen at his side.
Ri Sol-ju, 31, has not been seen in public since the new year. Kim Yo-jong has disappeared from public view before, raising speculation that there might have been a falling-out between the pair, but she has bounced back without any acknowledgement of her absence.
“The positive theory is that the leader grew up and is becoming more independent than before,” South Korean journalist, Wang Son-taek, writes on the NK News website.
“This would mean that Kim Yo-jong is now on the right track towards her own leadership-building path and is strongly supported by her brother.
Hyon Song-wol is the leader of The Moranbong Band – also known as Moran Hill Orchestra.
The all-female group’ members were all personally selected by Kim Jong-un and they’ve been described as "North Korea's version of the Spice Girls”.
Commentators on North Korean culture have noted that the band emerged in 2012, about the same time as a new wave in South Korean pop known as Hallyu, or Korean Wave, and in particular Psy's worldwide smash Gangnam Style”.
A year after the band burst on to the public stage, a South Korean newspaper reported that Hyon Song-wol had been machine-gunned to death for selling sex tapes featuring herself and her band members.
The fact that seven years later she’s sharing a stage with the supreme leader is an example of how confusion and misinformation have become a hallmark off the Pyongyang soap opera.
Peter Ward, a British researcher on North Korea based in Seoul, told The Times that people fall in and out of favour wth Kim all the time, and it’s part of his ruling style: “People rise to prominence, then they disappear or become less prominent for no apparent reason, and then they may rise again.
"Any or all of these women may be at different stages for no apparently important reason," he added, "and none appear likely to end up in very serious trouble any time soon.”
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