North Korea has apologized to the South over an apparent lack of media access during a concert by South Korean “K-Pop” musicians in Pyongyang this weekend.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, high ranking Workers’ Party official Kim Yong-chol personally apologized to reporters at a hotel in Pyongyang after South Korean journalists were not allowed inside the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre where the concert was taking place.
“We’re obliged to help reporters from the South side engage in free coverage and convenient filming. It was wrong to hinder the free media coverage and filming,” Kim Yong-chol was quoted as saying.
“Sunday’s event was special, as Chairman (Kim Jong-un) attended it. I think there might have not been sufficient cooperation between the chairman’s security guards and concert organizers,” he continued.
The swift apology came after the South Korean government revealed it had protested such a decision, although such public displays of regret from the North Korean regime are extremely rare.
Although Kim Yong-chol blamed the confusion on Kim Jong-un’s bodyguards, it is quite possible that such restrictions were deliberate in order to limit access to the event. Freedom of the press does not exist as all North Korean media is controlled by the state, while all foreign journalists must obtain special visas and face intense scrutiny while reporting inside the country.
The apology is also all the more surprising given Kim Yong-chol’s previous involvement with South Korea, where he is accused of masterminding the sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010.
However, Sunday’s concert appeared to be successful for both sides, with South Korea’s “K-Pop” musicians performing for an adoring North Korean crowd that apparently included the “socially disadvantaged” and Kim Jong-un himself.
According to Rodong Sinmun, Kim Jong-un “said that he was deeply moved to see our people sincerely acclaiming the performance, deepening the understanding of the popular art of the south side.”
K-Pop, which is a popular music style in South Korea heavily modeled on American dance music but taking influence from around the world, has long been banned in North Korea for its association with Western enemies.
Nevertheless, Kim reportedly told performers that “when such good atmosphere is preserved carefully and continuously, only the beautiful spring when new buds sprout and flowers blossom and the rich autumn when the crops are abundant will always be in the way of our fellow countrymen.”