S. Korea pop stars to perform in rare N. Korea concert

South Korean musicians posing after arriving at Pyongyang airport on Saturday
AFP

Seoul (AFP) – Top South Korean musical acts including a K-pop girlband are set to hold a rare concert in North Korea Sunday evening in the latest reconciliatory gesture before a rare inter-Korean summit. 

Sunday’s event — which will be the first concert by South Korean artists in the North for more than a decade — comes as a diplomatic thaw quickens on the peninsula after months of military tensions. 

The 120-member group — 11 musical acts as well as dancers and technicians — flew to Pyongyang on Saturday to perform concerts on Sunday as well as on Tuesday. 

South Korean singers held a rehearsal Sunday afternoon at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre where the concert is set to begin at 0830 GMT, according to South Korean pool photos. 

The rapprochement was triggered by the South’s Winter Olympics, to which the North’s leader Kim Jong Un sent athletes, cheerleaders and his powerful sister as an envoy.

Kim followed up by agreeing to summits with US President Donald Trump and the South’s President Moon Jae-in. The young leader also met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week during his first overseas trip.

The inter-Korean summit, the third after meetings in 2000 and 2007, will be held on April 27. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit although it is expected before the end of May.

The most closely-watched group set to perform Sunday is Red Velvet, part of the South’s hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm in recent decades.

The five-member girlband is known for a mix of upbeat electronic music, stylish fashion and high-voltage choreography. 

Joy, one of the five members, would miss the trip to Pyongyang due to her TV drama shooting schedule, their agency has said.

Despite the North’s isolation and strict curbs on unauthorised foreign culture, backed up by prison terms, K-pop has become increasingly popular there thanks to flash drives smuggled across the border with its neighbour China. 

Other Seoul stars to join the concerts include Cho Yong-pil, a singer who held a solo sell-out concert in Pyongyang in 2005.

Kim’s late father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong Il, was known to be a fan of the 68-year-old. singer.

Another famed singer, Choi Jin-hee, is set to perform for the fourth time in the North and to sing “Maze of Love” — a pan-peninsula hit and one of the late Kim’s favourites.

It was unclear whether Kim Jong Un would make an appearance at the concerts. President Moon attended a concert by visiting North Korean singers in Seoul to celebrate the opening of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February. 

“I hope that something similar will happen during this concert held in response (to the North’s Seoul concert),” Do Jong-hwan, Seoul’s culture chief leading the delegation, told reporters in Pyongyang.

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