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Is Kim Jong Un's Mystery Woman The 'Excellent Horse-Like Lady'?

In this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Monday, July 9, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and a woman clap with others on Friday as they watch a performance by North Korea's new Moranbong band in Pyongyang. Observers think she is Hyon Song-wol.

It seems that North Korea's young leader may have reconnected with an old love.

The reporting from Asia about that "mystery woman" who's been seen with Kim Jong Un in recent weeks is turning up details that sound like they're right out of good old American soap opera.

Though there's still a chance that the woman is Kim's sister, the Korea JoongAng Daily reports that:

-- The consensus seems to be that she is Hyon Song-wol, "former vocalist of the Bochonbo Electronic Music BandBochonbo Electronic Music Band." The band's biggest hit: Excellent Horse-Like Lady, from 2005.

-- Hyon and Kim first "became romantically attached" about a decade ago.

-- But Kim's father, the now-deceased Kim Jong Il, ordered his son to break off the affair. It's thought that the older man may not have thought she was a good match for the son he was grooming to be the next leader.

-- Hyon disappeared from public view in 2006, and reportedly married a North Korean Army officer, with whom she's had at least one child. As recently as this past March, she was "heavily pregnant."

-- But with Kim Jong Il's death last December, "his youngest son is thought to have rekindled the relationship."

As for the North Korean Army officer Hyon is said to have married, as New York magazine notes his fate isn't known — but may not be good.

And are Hyon and Kim married? Sorry, nobody seems to know.

Excellent Horse-Like Lady, by the way, wasn't the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band's only crowd-pleaser. According to The Telegraph, its other hits included Footsteps of Soldiers, I Love Pyongyang, She is a Discharged Soldier and We are Troops of the Party.

We don't happen to have any of those songs on our playlists. And the usually reliable NPR Music site is no help to us on this one. Has anyone ever heard Hyon's band?

Update at 1:55 p.m. ET. The Right Video?

Just as we were pushing the "publish" button on this post, a copy of what the poster says is an Excellent Horse-Like Lady video popped up on YouTube.

Can someone interpret for the group?

Update at 5:24 p.m. ET. Translation:

The translation of the song wasn't far from what you might expect. " May Jeong" in the comments sent us this translation:

"our factory comrades say in jest,

"why they tell me i am a virgin on a stallion

"after a full day's work i still have energy left

"my skills are truly like lightening they say

"they say i am a virgin on a stallion

"yet again today i was the first to leave for work

"apparently my name was in the paper

"in a xx time

"an award given to youth who live in flight

"they say i am a virgin on a stallion

"the party era is teeming with creation

"a new name they present to youth

"mounting a stallion the dear leader gave me

"all my life i will live to uphold his name

"they say i am a virgin on a stallion

"mounting a stallion my dear leader gave me

"all my life i will live to uphold his name"

That lines up with what our colleague Ki-Min Sung dug up for us via her parents. Thank you, everyone!

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET, July 11: And As For The Song's Title:

"May Jeong" tweets to us that "i think the title of the song should be 'lady riding a fine horse' not horse-like lady."

But, of course, it may be tough for "lady riding a fine horse" to overtake "horse-like lady" in the popular imagination.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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