Monday, 23 July, 2018

S Korea pop stars perform in rare N Korea concert

2018 Ju Peng  Xinhua via AP      
                                               Georgy Toloraya 2018 Ju Peng Xinhua via AP Georgy Toloraya
Michele Schwartz | 03 April, 2018, 06:23

But the images of the North Korean dictator laughing and speaking with the young South Korean pop stars and applauding from his private booth was a stark contrast to defector reports claiming that Kim has overseen a huge crackdown on foreign media, which he views as a threat to his regime.

The South's 160-member art troupe will again perform April 3, this time alongside North Korean counterparts, before returning home. Kim was seen clapping in time to the music and later took photographs with the performers. The North Korean military warned of an "all-out war" if the South did not turn off its loudspeakers, and it even fired warning shots across the border.

The theme of the joint concert will be "Spring is Coming", Hwang Seong-un, a spokesman for South Korea's culture ministry said at a briefing in Seoul on March 27.

There have been increasingly positive relations between the two countries in recent months, as leadership delegations from both countries were publicly amicable towards each other at the Olympics.

When South Korean boy band Shinhwa performed in North Korea in 2003 as part of a similar cultural diplomacy venture, the audience-dressed in suits and traditional dresses-greeted them with silence and stony stares.

The North Korean rhetoric may come as a surprise, given Kim's usual saber-rattling statements that are mostly directed against the United States.

"There was a lot of interest in whether I would come to watch Red Velvet", Kim Jong Un told North Korea's Central News Agency [via the Associated Press]. Kim Jong Un will reportedly meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in May, as well. No sitting USA president has ever met personally with a North Korean leader since the conclusion of the Korean War. As reported by AP, these materials are smuggled into North Korea via flash drives across the border with China.

It was the first time a North Korean leader attended a South Korean performance in the North's capital.

Is this a start of a harmonious relationship between two countries?

Rock band YB performed next follows by K-pop girl group Red Velvet and then a performance by Choi Jin Hee - who is visiting the North for the fourth time - and Lee Sun Hee took place.

The same South Korean singers will hold a joint concert with North Korean performers on Tuesday at the Ryukyung Chung Ju Yung Gymnasium, a joint project between the North and South named after Hyundai Group billionaire founder Chung Ju-yung, who had long advocated inter-Korean cultural and economic exchanges.

It was unclear whether Kim Jong Un would make an appearance at the concerts. K-Pop - characterized by its manufactured melodies and slick approach to marketing - has penetrated into North Korea over the past 10 years.

The North Korean concertgoers - most of the men in dark suits but some women in colorful traditional "hanbok" dresses - waved their hands from their seats when the South Korean stars sang the popular "Our wish is unification".

During Sunday's performance at the packed East Pyongyang Grand Theater, Kim made a surprise visit with his wife, Ri Sol Ju; sister Kim Yo Jong; and other senior North Korean officials, including nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam.

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