There were multiple theories swirling about their sudden departure from Beijing in December – ranging from the Chinese authorities being annoyed at the amount of pro-Kim propaganda in their performance to rumors one of the women tried to defect. Some said the concert was too close to the anniversary of former leader Kim Jong Il’s death, although that seemed unlikely since authorities on both sides knew that date was coming up.
But this week, on the anniversary of his father’s birth and a week after the country's latest rocket launch, Kim Jong Un has been holding a range of celebrations. There was a huge banquet and concert for those involved in this month’s launch of Kwangmyongsong-4, which North Korea says is a space launch vehicle that put a satellite into orbit, but which pretty much everyone else views as cover for its ballistic missile program.
Here’s what Kim said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency:
The course of conquering space was for the purpose of the revolution and independence rather than for that of science, and it was a fierce struggle to defend the peace and sovereignty from the hostile forces as well as to implement the behests of the great leaders. Today’s great success was recorded as a glorious page in the history of our Party and country as it gave confidence and courage to our people and dealt a telling blow to the enemies seeking to block the advance of our country.
The reports showed photos of banquet buffet tables complete with huge models of the rocket.
But the star of the show was the girl group, which performed a number of songs that were broadcast on North Korean television on Wednesday.
Their return was announced in a simple sentence at the end of a report on KCNA. "At the banquet there was a performance of the Moranbong Band celebrating the successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong-4," the report said.
Kim Jong Un’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, also appeared at the event, the first time she’s shown up in official media this year.