South Korean musicians arrive in Pyongyang for concerts

Members of K-pop girl group Red Velvet at Gimpo International airport in Seoul, ahead of their departure for Pyongyang yesterday. South Korean singers and bands are in Pyongyang for two shows, one of which will be a joint performance with North Korea
Members of K-pop girl group Red Velvet at Gimpo International airport in Seoul, ahead of their departure for Pyongyang yesterday. South Korean singers and bands are in Pyongyang for two shows, one of which will be a joint performance with North Korean artists on Tuesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Shows set to help speed up rapprochement on peninsula

SEOUL • K-pop stars led a group of South Korean musicians arriving in Pyongyang yesterday to take part in the latest set of cross-border cultural performances ahead of this month's rare inter-Korean summit.

The 120-member group including top girlband Red Velvet flew from Seoul's Gimpo airport aboard a chartered civilian flight to Pyongyang via the rarely used direct air route between the two Koreas, as a rapprochement on the peninsula gathers pace.

"This performance in Pyongyang will add momentum to inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation that resumed with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics" in the South, said Culture Minister Do Jong Hwan, who led the group.

They were greeted on arrival at Pyongyang airport by Mr Do's counterpart Pak Chun Nam, as well as Hyon Song Wol, founder of the North's popular all-female Moranbong band, the South's Yonhap agency reported.

Under the theme "Spring is Coming", the South Korean musicians will perform a concert in Pyongyang today before a joint show with North Korean artists at the 12,000-seat Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium on Tuesday.

While in Pyongyang, Mr Do said, he will meet North Korean officials to discuss further cultural and sports exchanges between the two Koreas that have restarted after a decade-long hiatus.

MORE THAN SONG AND DANCE

This performance in Pyongyang will add momentum to inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation that resumed with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

SOUTH KOREA CULTURE MINISTER DO JONG HWAN, on the concerts by performers from both Koreas.

The two rivals on Friday agreed on April 27 for the inter-Korean summit - the third of its kind following 2000 and 2007 meetings - at Panmunjom truce village on the heavily-fortified border.

Following the meeting between the North's leader Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae In, landmark talks are planned between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump, which could come by the end of May.

The rapid rapprochement was kicked off by February's Winter Olympics in the South and comes after a year of heightened tensions over the North's nuclear and missile programmes, which saw Mr Kim and Mr Trump engage in a fiery war of words.

Together with athletes and cheerleaders, the North sent musicians led by Hyon Song Wol to the South to celebrate the Games.

The shows in the North - the first of which will be at the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre today - will be taped and edited by a South Korean video crew to be made into a joint TV programme for both countries, Yonhap news agency said.

The South Korean musicians include singers and bands from a variety of genres, ranging from traditional folk songs to trendier K-pop.

Among those due to perform are Cho Yong Pil, the influential 68-year-old singer who performed a solo concert in Pyongyang in 2005; and Choi Jin Hee, 61, who took to the stage in the North in 1999, 2002 and 2005. Her 1984 mega hit "Love Maze" was reported to be the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's favourite song, and is credited with helping South Korean pop culture gain a following in the socialist state.

The song is often heard playing in Pyongyang restaurants, with its romantic lyrics altered to adulation of the North's leader.

Members of top K-pop girlband Red Velvet will also perform, venturing onto stages more traditionally occupied by North Korea's own mega girl group the Moranbong band, who are famous for their fast-paced patriotic songs.

Seohyun, a 26-year-old star from K-pop group Girl's Generation, will act as a master of ceremony for the events in Pyongyang.

Many North Korean defectors say they have seen South Korean dramas and heard K-pop music through black market USB drives in the North despite an official ban on the "decadent capitalist culture".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 01, 2018, with the headline 'South Korean musicians arrive in Pyongyang for concerts'. Print Edition | Subscribe