North Korean art troupe heads for Olympics

A North Korean art troupe leaves to give a congratulatory performance for the 23rd Winter Olympics in South Korea on Feb 5, 2018.
A North Korean art troupe leaves to give a congratulatory performance for the 23rd Winter Olympics in South Korea on Feb 5, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA (AFP) - Around 120 North Korean art performers in matching red coats and fur hats left for the South, its state media said on Tuesday (Feb 6), the latest in the flurry of cross-border exchanges in the run-up to the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The troupe were seen off from a train station in the North Korean capital Pyongyang by officials including supreme leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Ms Yo Jong, smiling broadly and wearing a black coat and grey fur scarf.

The Winter Olympics have triggered an apparent rapprochement on the divided peninsula, where tensions have been high over the nuclear-armed North's weapons ambitions.

In a rare high-level meeting last month, the two Koreas agreed that North Korean athletes, cheerleaders, artistic troupes and other delegates would attend the Games beginning in the South's ski resort of Pyeongchang on Friday.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the art troupe, led by Ms Hyon Song Wol, head of the Samjiyon Orchestra, left Pyongyang the previous day for a "congratulatory performance" for the Games in South Korea.

"The art troupe will go to Wonsan (on North Korea's east coast) by train and then visit South Korea aboard the ship 'Mangyongbon 92'," KCNA said.

The ferry is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday evening at Mukho port in the South's eastern city of Donghae, an hour's drive from the main Olympics venue in Pyeongchang.

A photo carried by KCNA showed dozens of women dressed in matching bright red winter coats, dark brown fur hats and fur scarves, walking in pairs with red suitcases at the train station in Pyongyang.

The band will hold two performances at the Gangneung Art Centre on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Feb 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympics and at the National Theatre of Korea in Seoul on Feb 11.