Hyon Song-Wol: said to have been executed over her reported part in a sex video. Photo: Reuters
A North Korean singer said to be Kim Jong-un's former girlfriend and reported to have been executed by firing squad last year has appeared on state television.
Hyon Song-Wol was shown delivering a speech at a rally of national art workers in the capital Pyongyang on Friday.
The singer was reported to have been caught up in palace intrigue last summer having incurred the displeasure of Ri Sol-ju, Mr Kim's wife.
Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju. Photo: AFP
The 31-year-old North Korean leader and the performer were said to have been teenage lovers but had been forced to break up by Kim Jong-il, Mr Kim's father and predecessor.
In August, Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper with close links to its country's intelligence services, reported that Hyon and 11 other well-known performers had been caught making a sex tape and executed.
But in the television appearance, Hyon expressed gratitude for Mr Kim's leadership and pledged to work harder to "stoke up the flame for art and creative work".
The reappearance of Hyon - perhaps best known for her hit song Excellent Horse-like Lady - came after months of speculation about whether she was alive.
"They were executed with machineguns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on," sources reportedly said at the time.
Nam Jae-Joon, South Korea's spy chief, added weight to the reports in October when two MPs quoted him as telling a closed parliamentary session: "We are aware of the execution of some 10 people associated with the Unhasu Orchestra."
It was also reported that other bands that were part of the "new wave" of music ushered in by Mr Kim's succession to the leadership had been forced to witness the execution as a salutary lesson.
Asahi Shimbun, Japan's best selling daily, joined in the reporting, claiming that the rare execution of state performers had been ordered to prevent rumours spreading about the supposedly decadent lifestyle of Ms Ri while she was an entertainer.
North Korea denied the reports, calling them an "unpardonable" crime.
KCNA, the North's state news agency, said the reports were the work of "psychopaths" and "confrontation maniacs" in the South Korean government and media. "This is a... hideous provocation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership," it said.
In an apparent attempt to prove the rumours untrue, North Korean radio in October aired a performance by the Unhasu Orchestra, but, with the lack of pictures of the singer until now, reports of her death had continued to dog the Pyongyang regime.