Hyon Song-wol, a North Korean pop star and former ex-girlfriend of the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, was executed by firing squad on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

She allegedly violated pornography laws and was therefore labeled as a dissident. Reports indicate that 11 other musicians from the Unhasu Orchestra and Wangjaesan Light Music Band were arrested and publicly executed as well.

The news comes via a South Korean news organization, the Chosun Ilbo. Those executed were accused of making sex tapes and selling the videos in North Korea and China. Some were also accused of having Bibles among their possessions.

While executions are believed to be common in the reclusive communist country, this death is particularly notable because Hyon was a former girlfriend of the current leader, Kim Jong-il. The two met about a decade ago but were ordered to separate by Kim’s father. Hyon later married a soldier. Rumors of an affair between Hyon and Kim have persisted, however.

Families of those executed have apparently been sent to prison camps as part of the overall punishment.

A singer with the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, a popular North Korean band most notable for propaganda songs, Hyon was well-known in her country. The video above is for one of her hits, “A Girl in the Saddle of a Steed” (often mis-translated as “Excellent Horse-Like Lady”). In it, factory girls make fabric and exceed quotas, thus bringing joy to themselves and the country.

Posted by:Laurel Brown