South Korea went into swoon mode on Sunday — at the feet of a party apparatchik from the North.
Hyon Song-Wol is, however, no dourly-dressed, suit-wearing bureaucrat from the nuclear-armed nation, but the leader of Pyongyang’s most popular girl band.
Cameras followed her every move as the glamorous songstress swept through Seoul at the head of a North Korean delegation sent to inspect performance venues for the Pyeongchang Olympic Games.
Wearing a fur muffler and exuding an air of confident calm, Ms. Hyon was unfazed by the throng of cameras that followed her everywhere.
Believed to be in her late 30s or early 40s, Ms. Hyon is as close to a megastar as North Korea probably has.
She is also a politically powerful figure as an alternative member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party’s central committee.
Ms. Hyon’s presence in the run-up to the international event — which until recently was marked by global tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programme — is seen by some as the latest attempt to capitalise on the appeal of its performers.
South Korea’s media followed her every move, with tiny details about her facial expressions and fashion style making headlines.