The ex-girlfriend of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un has been executed by firing squad along with eleven others, an unconfirmed report in the Chosun Ilbo claims.
According to the South Korean paper, which has an estimated circulation of about 2.3 million readers, singer Hyon Song-wol was arrested on August 17 “for violating North Korean laws against pornography” and publicly executed three days later.
She was joined by singers, musicians and dancers from the Unhasu Orchestra and the Wangjaesan Light Music Band, the paper adds. It seems the group was accused of making and distributing a sex tape.
“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,” a source for the paper reportedly said.
Immediate family members were then allegedly taken to prison camps “under North Korea’s barbaric principle of guilt by association.”
The North Korean leader was said to have met Song-wol roughly ten years ago, though his father forced them to break off the relationship. In the intervening years, the singer reportedly married and had a baby, though some say the romantic liaison with Kim Jong-un continued.
Here is purported video of one of Song-wol’s performances:
There is no shortage of brutality in North Korea — The Telegraph notes that Kim Jong-un had the vice minister of the army executed with a mortar round over allegations he was being festive before the official mourning period of Kim Jong-il’s death had completed.
“[Leave] no trace of him behind, down to his hair,” Kim Jong-un reportedly demanded.
But some are skeptical of the latest report.
“If these people had only made pornographic videos, then it is simply not believable that their punishment was execution,” Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, told The Telegraph.
He suggested there is either a political or romantic reason behind the reported execution. It should be noted that the dictator’s wife reportedly belonged to the same music group as his ex-lover.
Or, The Atlantic adds, “the whole thing may be [an] apocryphal rumor cooked up to demonstrate the barbarity of the regime.”