Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, recently issued an order to recruit talented female singers and musicians, Daily NK has learned. The order is currently being carried out under the leadership of Central Committee member Hyon Song-wol, leading to speculation within North Korea that new members are being selected for the Moranbong Band.
“Under the orders of Comrade Kim Yo Jong, who seeks to guarantee the well-being and longevity of the Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un], Hyon Song-wol has been placed in charge of recruiting a number of multi-talented vocalists and musicians at least 165 cm tall,” a North Korean source told Daily NK on Wednesday. “The selection process began on July 6, with the majority of recruits to be taken from among students at the Pyongyang University of Music and Dance.”
SELECTING THE “MOST TALENTED”
According to the source, a panel of judges made up of 18 members has been put together from cultural and artistic fields, including officials from the Propaganda and Agitation Department. They will evaluate the solo performances and graduation portfolios of students from arts-related universities and recruit the most talented female students who fit the selection criteria.
The primary criteria for selection reportedly focuses on academic record, experience and physical appearance, and recruits must also come from “appropriate” backgrounds and have “clean ideological records.” This is because the women selected will be working and performing close to Kim Jong Un, the source explained.
The order has led to speculation that authorities are preparing for a “generational shift” in the makeup of the Moranbong Band.
“Although this has not been announced as an official search for new members of the Moranbong Band, most officials and workers in cultural and artistic fields are keeping a close eye on it,” the source explained. “The criteria and the nature of the selection process, which will be conducted by staff from the central government and professional organizations, are the same as the secret recruitment that took place prior to the formation of the Moranbong Band, and those involved are not denying [the speculation].
A GENERATIONAL SHIFT AFOOT?
The source further said that given the Moranbong Band’s status as a “national treasure” created by Kim Jong Un, rumors have “quickly spread” that the new recruitment efforts are aimed at passing on Kim’s “noble ideology” to future generations.
The Moranbong Band was formed at the order of Kim Jong Un and held their first demonstration performance on July 6, 2012. Since then, the band has performed at many anniversary celebrations including the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement (referred to as “Victory Day” in North Korea), showing off an elaborate and sophisticated style that is markedly different from other North Korean music groups. The band’s colorful image has seen them dubbed a North Korean-style “girl group” by the international community.
The Moranbong Band remains under the command of Hyon Song-wol and consists of approximately 20 singers and musicians. Core members Ryu Jin-a, Ra Yu-mi and Kim Yu-gyong received the title of “distinguished actress” from Kim Jong Un in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.
“The singers in the Moranbong Band are now approaching their late 20s or early 30s, so it is considered time for them to be married off to the sons of central government officials or other individuals who have had a direct connection with the leader [for example, someone who received a letter from Kim Jong Un or was spoken to directly during an on-the-spot visit],” the source said. “While the musicians are able to continue performing even after marriage, it is more difficult for the singers since having children tends to weaken their bodies and vocal chords. Accordingly, this order is being interpreted as preparation for an inevitable generational shift.”
Some in North Korea reportedly believe that the order is related to the formation of a new musical group or just part of efforts to recruit women to “attend” to the country’s leader. Lending weight to this view is the fact that two of the members on the panel of judges are also members of the Department 5, which is responsible for selecting women who “care for” Kim Jong Un.
The source noted that many people in the country think that the whole recruitment effort is akin to recruiting courtesans back in the Chosun Dynasty. Some believe that because most people only have one child these days being selected to serve the leader is no longer much of an honor.
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