PYONGYANG (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Standing in front of 1,500 spectators - including the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife - in the East Pyongyang Grand Theater, the visiting South Korean art troupe on Sunday (April 1) delivered a message of peace and hope for unification through musical performance.
The Pyongyang concert was originally slated for 5.30pm (4.30pm, Singapore time), but was delayed for 80 minutes due to Kim's sudden decision to attend the concert himself with his wife Ri Sol Ju.
With that, he became the first North Korean leader to attend a concert by South Korean musicians.
Kim arrived 10 minutes before the concert started and was greeted by the South Korean delegation including Culture Minister Do Jong Hwan and musical director Yun Sang. They shared a few words as they headed to the second floor for the concert.
Kim shook hands with each South Korean musician and told the group that he wished for another joint concert of the Koreas in the fall in Seoul.
"I originally wanted to watch a concert on Tuesday, but I had other appointments so I came today," Kim was quoted as saying by a high-ranking government official.
Tuesday is when the musicians of the two Koreas are slated to hold a joint concert.
"The joint concert is meaningful, but watching just the performance by the South is also meaningful. (South Korean) President Moon Jae In watched the joint concert (in Seoul), so it is right that I should watch at least the South's concert," he added
Kim also expressed his appreciation toward President Moon on behalf of Pyongyang's citizens, and said he will deliver such appreciation to Kim Jong Il, the deceased former leader of North Korea and his father.
The concerts are a part of the Koreas' effort to ease tension in the peninsula. Seoul and Pyongyang are set to hold a summit on April 27, followed by the North's talks with US on denuclearization before the end of May.
High-ranking North Korean officials, including Kim's sister Kim Yo Jung, the North's nominal state head Kim Young Nam, the North's unification committee chief Ri Sun Kwon and Choi Hwi, the chairman of the North's National Sports Guidance Committee, also attended the concert.
The South Korean art troupe, consisting of eleven musical acts, performed 26 songs under the theme "Spring Comes", the season symbolising peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean artists did not contribute to the concert,
It kicked off with a performance by jazz pianist Kim Kwang Min, along with a hologram that depicted the theme. Singers Jung In and Ali followed with their individual performances and a duet.
The show's host Seohyeon of Girls' Generation, who performed with the North Korean art troupe in February in Seoul, welcomed the North Koreans to the show.
"I had no idea I was able to keep the promise (to meet the North Korean artists again)," she said. "There is also a flower called hope blossoming in the relationship between South and North Korea. I hope you will consider this (performance) a gift to pay back for what we got from the North Korea art group."
Baek Ji Young, one of the leading female vocalists in South Korea, took to the stage next. What followed was the video of the past exchange between the Koreas, then a performance by Kang San Ae.
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 stage was then relinquished to the legendary Cho Yong Pil, who is revisiting Pyongyang for the first time in 13 years. His 2005 concert was the last concert by any South Korean in Pyongyang prior to Sunday's concert.
Seohyeon sang for the last part of the individual performances. What followed was a group performance from the 11 acts of Cho's song Dear Friend and the two songs that wrapped up the North Korean artists' Seoul concert in February.
The South Korean troupe will jointly perform with the North Korean artists Tuesday at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium before heading back later in the day.
Prior to the concert, a performance by taekwondo athletes from South and North Koreas took place at Taekwon-Do Hall in Pyongyang. The performance started around 4.30pm. and lasted for 50 minutes, expressing the theme of respect for respect, loyalty and love for one's performance in taekwondo moves.
The 2,300 North Koreans in the arena clapped in unison to the performance by the South Korean team, which was carried out to the tunes of electronic dance moves. But the audience froze when the athletes started performing Fire by K-pop group BTS.
"It was our first time performing in Pyongyang and it was meaningful," said Lee Eui Seong, the captain of the South Korean squad. "South or North (Korea) it is the same taekwondo, same roots, but the way it has grown is different. It feels great to spread our taekwondo.
Choi Hwi, the chairman of the North's National Sports Guidance Committee, expressed hopes for further taekwondo exchange between the Koreas.
"(South and North Koreas) each have our own system of techniques, so it would be good to learn from each other," he said.
It marked the second time a South Korean team of taekwondo artists performed in Pyongyang, and the first since 2002. They will perform again at Pyongyang Grand Theatre on Monday, this time with the North Korean athletes.
Each team will perform for about 25 minutes, and then hold a joint demonstration for five minutes.