First ladies set to bond over shared love of music

Ms Kim Jung-sook (right), wife of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with Ms Ri Sol Ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during a visit to a music school in Pyongyang yesterday.
Ms Kim Jung-sook (right), wife of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with Ms Ri Sol Ju, wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during a visit to a music school in Pyongyang yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL • The first ladies of the two Koreas will carry out their own form of diplomacy, bonding over their shared interest in music, on the sidelines of the third summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Mr Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook were greeted by Mr Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport yesterday morning.

The two first ladies, who had displayed an exceptional rapport during their first meeting at the Moon-Kim summit in April in Panmunjom, are expected to cultivate their relationship further during this trip, which runs until tomorrow.

Ms Kim's official itinerary for yesterday included visits to the Kim Won-gyun Conservatory, a prestigious music school in Pyongyang, and the nearby Okryu Children's Hospital, accompanied by Ms Ri.

The first ladies' visit to the music college would be a chance for the two to discuss their mutual love of music, given their music backgrounds. Ms Kim majored in vocal performance at Kyung Hee University in Seoul and was part of the Seoul Metropolitan Chorus, while Ms Ri was a soloist with the North's famous Unhasu Orchestra before she married Mr Kim.

Today, the South Korean First Lady's itinerary includes a visit to the Mangyongdae School Children's Palace on the south-western edge of Pyongyang, where North Korean children take classes in ballet, musical instruments, singing and calligraphy. Its students often perform for foreign reporters and tourists.

North Korea observers have noted since earlier this year that the country's media now refers to Ms Ri as "revered first lady", instead of "comrade", as it customarily used to. Ms Ri also accompanied Mr Kim to Beijing in March, when he made a surprise trip for a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2018, with the headline 'First ladies set to bond over shared love of music'. Print Edition | Subscribe