Recent weeks have seen considerable speculation over the possible existence of erotic footage of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Eun. While it is impossible to confirm or deny the claims, which emerged out of the alleged execution of one of Kim’s former lovers, there is plentiful evidence of elite interest in pornography to give weight to the story.
“Pornographic videos produced in Japan began to enter North Korea back in the 1980s. They were carried into the North by people travelling on the Mangyongbong,” a source familiar with the internal workings of Chongryon, the association for North Korean residents living in Japan, told Daily NK on the 7th. “There were these Chongryon people who were responsible for procuring and delivering the videos to North Korea.”
“The pornography that came in this way was then passed down to high-ranking North Korean officials via Kim Jong Il. The watching of pornographic videos thus became common practice for officials around Kim,” the source continued. “Videos of North Korean performers also circulated privately within Chongryon in Japan. However, it has not been confirmed whether Ri Sol-Ju, like Kim’s former lover Hyon Song Wol, ever produced pornographic videos.”
The source explained that during Kim Jong Il’s infamous private parties, the time when many final policy decrees were issued by the North Korean leader, the so-called “Pleasure Corps”, a similarly infamous troupe of attractive young women charged with providing entertainment to Kim and those around him, would perform for the guests. Moreover, Kim was known to occasionally give erotic videos to officials around him as gifts, part of the broader system of “gift politics” with which his rule was synonymous.
“Clearly, the lewd culture in North Korea began with the widespread dissemination of obscene videos from Chongryon in Japan,” the source concluded, before asserting, “Kim Jong Il’s idea of night life, such as these parties, as good as encouraged depravity in his officials.”
“Right now, there is all this controversy over the existence of the Ri Sol Ju obscene video; but North Korean officials all know about videos featuring renowned performers because of the growth of lewd culture between them,” he added. “Simply, we don’t know whether Ri Sol Ju was ever in any such pornographic video, and need to check more to find out.”
According to one high-level defector who spoke anonymously with Daily NK, the latest allegations of sexual scandal and extreme punishment are not the first, either. “In the late 90s, the children of some Pyongyang officials paid several film actresses for nude photos,” he recalled. “This ended up in the ‘Mangyungdae Incident,’ and several people were executed for it, including the son of People’s Actor Yoo Kyung Ae.”
“In the 90s, Choi Ryong Hae, the current director of the People’s Army General Political Bureau [who was previously chair of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League], disbanded the Youth League Art Propaganda Corps at the behest of Kim Jong Il because of a huge scandal that it had become associated with,” the defector also noted. “A few dozen of the members were imprisoned at the NSA-run Suseong Re-education Camp in Chongjin for it.”
Recalling a second story, the source said, “In the 2000s, the Pocheonbo Electronic Orchestra, a very popular group with North Koreans, was also dissolved because the performers had gotten involved in making pornography to earn hard currency. A few of the remaining members were sent to the Chosun People’s Army Band after it was dissolved.”
The scandal swirling around Ri Sol Ju first erupted in the aftermath of the rumoured execution by firing squad of a handful of people for their involvement in the production of salacious material. Most important among the group was Hyun Song Wol, Kim Jong Eun’s former lover and a one-time member of Pocheonbo. The investigation into Hyun is said to have unmasked evidence that Ri also has erotic videos in her past. Whether true or not, the speculation has since travelled far and wide both inside and outside North Korea.