K-pop diplomacy: Kim Jong-un attends as South Korean stars perform first concert in North for 13 years

Concerts come ahead of historic summit between leaders Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in

Chris Baynes
Sunday 01 April 2018 17:14
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Kim Jong-un watches South Korean K-pop stars in Pyongyang

Some of South Korea’s biggest pop stars have staged a rare concert in North Korea in the latest sign of thawing tensions in the divided peninsula.

Eleven acts including veteran crooners and a K-pop girl group performed in Pyongyang to an audience that included North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife.

It comes weeks before Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in hold a historic summit in a village on the border between the two nations.

A delegation of more than 190 South Korean musicians, technicians, officials and a taekwondo demonstration team travelled to the North Korean capital this week for two shows on Sunday and Tuesday.

The concerts are the first featuring South Korean acts in the North for 13 years.

Girl group Red Velvet and singers Cho Yong-pil and Lee Sun-hee were among those who took to the stage in Sunday’s concert at the 2,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre.

Mr Kim became the first North Korean president to watch a performance by artists from the South, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre

Performers from the South and North will stage a joint concert on Tuesday at the 12,000-seat Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium.

The shows come after the Pyongyang sent performers to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year.

They also precede talks between Mr Kim and and Mr Moon on 27 April.

The meeting, which will be followed by a summit between Mr Kim and US president Donald Trump in May, could prove significant in the global diplomatic push to resolve the stand-off over the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles programme.

South Korean culture minister Do Jong-whan said he hoped the concerts would lead to further cross-border exchanges.

“Our mainstream artists and I will do our best to make a success of the historic concerts in Pyongyang, which are the first in 13 years,” he said in a statement.

South Korean singer Yoon Do-hyun, who previously performed in Pyongyang in 2002, was emotional after landing in the North Korean capital.

“My heart is bursting,” he told reporters, his eyes welling with tears. “I am most curious about the reaction of the audience, how it would be different from 16 years ago.”

The artists were greeted by Hyon Song Wol, the leader of Kim Jong-un’s hand-picked girl-group Moranbong Band, who has been working out the details of the performances with South Korean officials.

“Your arrival in Pyongyang brings big expectations,” she said. “A lot of famous singers have come.”

The first concerts came as South Korea and the United States kicked off their annual joint military exercises on Sunday. The drills had been delayed by about a month for the Winter Olympics and to help create conditions for a resumption of talks between North and South Korea.

The exercises, which usually involves combined ground, air, naval and special operations troops, will continue for a month.

North Korea, which has traditionally accused both South Korea and the US of practising invading the North during joint military drills, remained silent on the issue on Sunday.

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