Is Kim Jong-un's mystery woman a long-lost love?

Glamorous companion said to be a married pop star who Korean leader's father forbade him to see

The most mysterious leader on the planet just got a little more so. After a fortnight’s unexplained absence from the public gaze, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un has returned squiring a glamorous young woman.

Hair trimmed in a neat bob, large eyes, a warm, self-confident smile, got up in a natty dark suit with green piping, she took the stage next to Mr Kim at the end of a musical show, applauding the cast. The careful presentation of the pair – and nothing presentational is left to chance in North Korea – suggested strongly that they were husband and wife; that here was North Korea’s First Lady. But though happy to splash the photos around, official sources gave no clue as to her identity.

South Korean intelligence sources claim that she is Hyon Song-wol, a locally famous pop singer who, fronting the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band, had a string of local hits in the early 2000s. The most popular was entitled "Excellent Horse-like Lady", and eulogised the Stakhanovite achievements of a beautiful woman worker in a textile factory. In the video of the song, Ms Hyon played the heroine, dashing around a sparkling factory with a beatific smile, distributing bobbins and collecting swatches of cloth at top speed.

It is claimed that Kim Jong-un and Hyon Song-wol were lovers in adolescence but that Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, who died at the end of last year, disapproved of the relationship and forced his son to break if off. Ms Hyon reportedly married an army officer and had a child with him. But now that the elder Kim is dead, it is suggested that the younger man has gone back to his old flame and is positioning her to play an active role at his side, helping him to consolidate his image as a virile young man with the same sort of urges as his subjects. "The two have known each other since they were in their teens," the intelligence source told the Seoul daily Joong An, "and rumours about the two having an affair have been circulating among Pyongyang's top elite".

The mystery woman, who earlier had accompanied Mr Kim on a visit to the tomb of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, founder of the dynasty, undoubtedly bears a strong resemblance to the pop singer. But official North Korean sources have so far declined to shed light on her identity, leading to a rash of rival explanations.

Earlier reports claimed that she was Kim's younger sister Kim Yeo-jong, and was being put through her public paces in preparation for being given a significant political role. But according to Paik Haksoon of the Sejong Institute, a Seoul think-tank, this is rot: "She doesn't have the attitude of a younger sister, who in Korean culture would have to stay in the shadow of her elder brother," he said.

The expert supports the thesis that the woman is Kim's wife, "otherwise the regime would not give her such public proximity to the supreme leader". But he doubted whether she was Hyon Song-wol: he questioned whether Kim would be permitted to flaunt his secret romantic attachments while still consolidating his grip on the nation.

And if this really is Hyon Song-wol, whatever happened to her husband and son?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need