One of the most influential women in the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), Song-wol is the leader of an all-female pop group called the Moranbong Band and moonlights as an alternate member of the nation's Workers' Party central committee. Last week, she captivated South Koreans by leading a seven-member delegation to examine facilities in the South, where the North's Samjiyon orchestra will play next month and 22 North Koreans will compete.
Throngs of people tried to take photos of Song-wol while newspapers analyzed her dark coat with a "fur muffler" and TV stations live-streamed her for hours on end.
International media released photos of Song-wol describing her as a "beloved North Korean pop star" exuding "an air of confident calm." Some sources even said that her style emulated that of Melania Trump. The Korea Times broadcasted the headline "N. Korean band leader steals limelight," while the Washington Post described her visit as "a propaganda coup for North Korea."
South Korea's Unification Ministry scolded local reporters for making Song-wol feel uncomfortable by asking too many questions, after receiving complaints from DPRK authorities.
Song-wol is not only a megastar, she is a Pyongyang anomaly, portraying a lifestyle that appears to be devoid of starvation and human rights abuse. She is reportedly a former lover of Kim Jong-un from an affair that took place 10 years ago. Song-wol was also rumored to have been executed by a machine gun for producing porn at one point, but that rumor appears to be unlikely as she looks to be, well, very much alive.
"The two have known each other since they were in their teens and rumors about the two having an affair have been circulating among Pyongyang's top elite," a South Korean intelligence official told the JoongAng Daily.
"North Koreans are very proud," Tatiana Gabroussenko, an expert on DPRK culture, declared to the Washington Post.
"They are saying, ‘We may be a communist state, but our girls are the most beautiful, they're not like those plastic girls in the South,' " she added, referring to the prevalent use of cosmetic surgery in South Korea.
It is possible that Pyongyang is sending its most revered public figures and orchestra troupes to the South Korea 2018 Winter Olympics in hopes that media coverage will portray the DPRK in a kinder light to a sceptical world.