Amid inter-Korean talks on North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Olympics, eyes are on Hyon Song-wol, who leads the Moranbong Band, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's favoured art troupe.
Inter-Korean working-level talks on the North Korean art troupe's participation in the Winter Games convened Monday at the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjeom after Pyongyang last week agreed to send a delegation including athletes, an art troupe, journalists and high-ranking officials to the sporting event to be held next month.
Hyon, who is alleged to be trusted by Kim, was included in the North's delegation to the talks Monday, triggering speculation that Hyon and her Moranbong Band may attend the PyeongChang Olympics.
Whether Hyon and her band will participate in the games is drawing keen interest, as the all-female group is said to be Kim's favourite band. The band, handpicked by Kim in July 2012, performs a mix of Western-style and North Korean propaganda songs.
Hyon, who is believed to be in her 40s, was rumored to have been romantically involved with Kim in the early 2000s. She was also rumored to have been purged, even executed, in 2013, but those rumours turned out to be false.
In 2017, she was appointed to the powerful Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee. She also holds the rank of colonel in the Korean People's Army of the North.
Pyongyang has sought to improve ties with neighbouring countries by sending the Moranbong Band to perform. In December 2015, the band went to Beijing for a performance, but abruptly cancelled it in defiance of Chinese officials' request not to sing propaganda songs idolizing Kim.
Hyon and her band members garnered international attention by wearing short skirts and tank tops and playing Western tunes. The band has performed at a slew of major North Korean events and has been touring North Korea since last year.