Rumors that executed North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek had an affair with leader Kim Jong-un's wife and tried to run the country through her are "nonsense," a defector who was once part of the Pyongyang elite says.
Pianist Kim Cheol-woong told the Chosun Ilbo on Thursday, "In North Korea, anyone who is not a member of the Kim family is purged mercilessly if they are caught attempting to bolster their power."
This means even the first lady would easily be seen as expendable, the pianist said.
In the 1970s, the siblings of nation founder’s Kim Il-sung's second wife Kim Song-ae attempted to expand their influence and were caught and purged.
The defector also warned against setting too much store by Ri Sol-ju's public appearances. "In North Korea, even the first lady faces limits in her activities," Kim said. "It's meaningless to tot up her official appearances."
Kim Cheol-woong was recognized as a gifted pianist in North Korea and dated the daughter of Jang's older brother for three years. But he fled after being arrested by state security for playing a banned song.