SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday watched a rare performance by South Korean pop stars visiting Pyongyang, media reports said, amid thawing ties between the rivals after more than a year of heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear program.
A South Korean artistic group including K-pop singers flew to Pyongyang on Saturday for two performances in the North Korean capital. Their trip comes before Kim is to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27 and with President Donald Trump in May in separate summits.
South Korean media pool reports from Pyongyang said Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, watched Sunday’s performance by the South Korean group at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater. The reports said Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, and other top officials, including nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, were also present.
Kim clapped his hands during the event, and he shook hands with South Korean performers and took a group photo with them after their performance, according to the reports.
South Korean pop singers performed in the North during a past era of detente, but it was the first time for a North Korean leader to attend such a South Korean performance. Before Sunday’s performance, South Korea last sent a pop singer to North Korea in 2005.
The pool reports cited an unidentified South Korean official as saying that Kim had initially planned to watch the second performance, set for Tuesday, but changed his plan due to a scheduling conflict. On Tuesday, the two Koreas plan to hold a joint performance.
The ongoing cooperation steps between the rivals began after North Korea took part in February’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. During the games, a North Korean art troupe performed in South Korea, and Moon and his wife watched it with visiting senior North Korean officials including Kim Yo Jong, who became the first member of the North’s ruling Kim family to visit the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.