Unpredictable North Korea: The Korea Herald

Members of the Moranbong Band of North Korea arrive at Beijing International Airport on Dec 12, 2015.
Members of the Moranbong Band of North Korea arrive at Beijing International Airport on Dec 12, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Dec 12, 2015, The Korea Herald says Pyongyang's decision to cancel a girl band's performance gives the nation a bad name.

North Korea appears to have simultaneously shut down its political and cultural interchange events with two of its neighbors, South Korea and China, over the weekend.

As expected, there was not much progress in the latest inter-Korean talks. The attention of South Korean citizens was more focused on a Pyongyang-based girl group's planned performance in Beijing on Saturday.

CNN also carried an online article on North Korean all-girl Moranbong Band's scheduled visit to China. Its mistake of posting a photo of a South Korean girl group in the report drew further attention among the South's netizens.

However, a cancellation notice on the three-day planned performances starting Saturday - posted on the Chinese theater's website late in the day - led to speculation on the possible political background.

If a cancellation had happened in inter-Korean exchanges - like the North's scrapping of a cheerleader group's dispatch to the 2014 Incheon Asian Games - many South Koreans would have considered it as just another regular hoax on ethnic Koreans.

But the venue was Beijing, where the band conducted a rehearsal on Friday. Further, more than 6,000 invitations were reportedly delivered to Chinese senior officials, business leaders and other dignitaries.

If the cancellation was not initiated by the Chinese government but by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the recent cooling of relations between the two countries could aggravate further. Pundits have noted that the Moranbong visit was designed to ensure Kim's summit with its ally's President Xi Jinping for the first time.

There could be political factors that scuttled the event. In any case, North Korea has once again lived up to its dishonourable reputation as a country with low credit standing in terms of diplomatic relations.

The communist regime appears to be choosing isolation in the rapidly changing geopolitical relations in East Asia.

On the other hand, it is worrisome that Mr Kim may take a more risky military option amid the limited economic impact in the face of the North's chain of provocations against the South.

Pyongyang's efforts to get its relations with Beijing back on track will surely have a significant impact on the Korean Peninsula.

The cultural interchanges may accelerate the resumption of six-party talks on the peninsula. Right now, the cancellation only makes the global society recollect its childish practices over the past few decades.

On the same day, the two Koreas also failed to reach any agreement during the high-level talks in Gaeseong, with no schedule set for the next round of talks.

* The Korea Herald is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers seeking to promote coverage of Asian affairs.