North Korean Star Hyon Song Wol Finally Arrives In South Korea

Danielle Min, Jan. 22, 2018, 9:59 a.m.


North Korean glamor girl-turned-apparatchik Hyon Song-wol turned many heads on arrival in South Korea on Sunday ahead of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Some 1,000 police and security personnel were mobilized to protect Hyon as she and her six-member entourage traveled by train from Seoul Station to Gangneung in Gangwon Province. Security personnel pushed back reporters, who had turned out in droves at Seoul Station as Hyon boarded the KTX train.

Hyon, who was here in her official capacity as a Workers Party apparatchik and leader of a cheerleading orchestra, wore a blue overcoat and fur muffler and appeared tense but smiled from time to time.

Police moved homeless people out of the station. South Korean reporters shouted questions at Hyon, but she remained silent.

In Gangneung, more than 500 people turned up at the station to catch a glimpse of Hyon, who waved at them, but not all of them were happy to see her.

Ham Seung-ho (66), a Gangneung resident, said, "The Mt. Sorak region is suffering so why should we spend money reviving Mt. Kumgang?" -- referring to the North Korean resort where the two Koreas plan a last-minute celebration on the eve of the Olympics. Another local, Lee Geum-ok (51), said, "It looks like the Olympics is being hijacked by North Korea, which makes me nervous."

Hyon and her entourage boarded two buses and ate lunch in a hotel in Gangneung before heading to a stadium named after Olympic gold medalist marathoner Hwang Young-cho and then to the Gangeung Culture and Art Center, where Hyon's Samjiyon Orchestra is slated to perform.

The only recorded conversation of any note came when the North Koreans complained about the small size of the stadium. A South Korean representative said, "If you'd let us know earlier, we would have been able to set up 50,000 seats, but we had no time." Hyon said, "That would have been better for you too," and laughed.

Hyon spent a couple of hours at the Gangneung Culture and Art Center for more than two hours and headed to the five-star Skybay Hotel, where she spent the night in a suite on the 19th floor.

She heads back to Seoul on Monday to visit two possible venues for the orchestra's performance.

The North Koreans were expected in Seoul on Saturday but abruptly postponed the visit by one day without giving a reason. In the interim North Korean state media hurled abuse at the South Korean media, which they appear to feel ought to be as tightly controlled as they are.

The official [North] Korean Central News Agency complained about Seoul's "noncommittal" response to news reports criticizing the way North Korea has been accommodated.

A senior Unification Ministry official said Saturday, "North Korea has from time to time expressed strong discomfort at excessively speculative reporting by South Korean news media."

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