North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has appointed an ex-girlfriend and pop star who was reportedly "executed" for making a "porn film" as his right-hand woman.
Kim, 35, has reportedly known singer Hyon Song-wol, 42, since he was in his teens, and in the past week, the pair have been photographed together at high-profile factory visits and the Mass Games opening night.
The glamorous former musician shot to fame in 2005 with a song about the rogue state's industrious textile workers, but, if South Korean media is to be believed, she angered North Korea's ruling party by making an "X-rated movie".
Earlier this year, South Korea's The Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Hyon and other performers had been executed by a firing squad.
However, executions in the closely guarded state are notoriously hard to verify.
On numerous occasions, South Korean media has reported executions — only for the person to publicly emerge days or weeks later.
Months after she is said to have been killed, Hyon has been named the new vice director of the North Korean ruling party's Propaganda and Agitation Department, according to state media.
And, it's clear from her lyrics, the pop singer has a patriotic streak, to say the least.
"They say I am a virgin on a stallion," she sang in her 2005 crowd-pleaser. "Mounting a stallion my Dear Leader gave me/All my life I will live to uphold his name!"
However, a seemingly innocuous video surfaced in 2013 that shows three Korean women dancing in leotards to a version of Elvis Presley's Aloha Oe in cowboy hats and tasselled skirts.
This clip reportedly prompted Kim to order Hyon's execution, although it's clear those reports were false.
The appointment comes amid reports the North Korean leader's half-brother, who was killed by two women who smeared his face with a nerve agent in an airport, was reportedly a secret CIA informant.
The Wall Street Journal spoke to a secret source who claims there was a "nexus" between the US spy agency and Kim Jong Nam — and he had met with operatives several times.
They added Kim Jong Nam — who lived mainly in the Chinese enclave of Macau — was killed while on a trip to meet his CIA contact person, and he was "almost certainly" in contact with security services of other countries.
US President Donald Trump has now spoken out about the claims — saying the use of CIA informants wouldn't happen on his watch.
"I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices, that's for sure," Trump told reporters on the White House lawn today.
Kim has also been the subject of reportedly false claims in the British press this week that he executed one of his own generals by throwing him into a piranha-filled fish tank.
The despot also reportedly executed four foreign ministry workers over his failed "peace" talks with Trump — which, again, has not been verified.
The officials are said to have been slaughtered by a firing squad in the North Korean capital after the much-anticipated summit in Vietnam broke down.
Despite the uncertainty over recent claims, hundreds of sites where North Korea is believed to have conducted public executions have been revealed as part of new research.
The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group has mapped hundreds of locations where witnesses claim North Korea carried out public executions and extrajudicial state killings designed to intimidate and control citizens.
North Korea's public executions tended to happen near rivers, in fields and on hills and also at marketplaces and school grounds, the report said.
Residents and family members of those sentenced are often forced to attend the killings.
Experts believe the aggressive use of the death penalty is designed to provoke fear among citizens.
The human rights group said on Tuesday its research was based on interviews conducted over four years with 610 North Korean defectors who helped locate the sites with satellite imagery.
The group hasn't revealed the exact locations of the 323 sites because it's worried North Korea will tamper with them but said 267 of them were located in two northeastern provinces near the border with China, the area where most of the defectors who participated in the study came from.