mppu international


Point of view

By Shim Sun-ah and Joint Press Corps


PYONGYANG, April 2 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean art troupe held a historic performance in Pyongyang on Sunday with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife in attendance.

A 160-member art troupe, including celebrated K-pop musicians such as Cho Yong-pil, Red Velvet and Seohyun, performed for about two hours before a North Korean audience in the fully packed, 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre.

It marks the first performance by South Korean artists in the North Korean capital since 2005, when Cho, a contemporary K-pop legend, held a solo concert there.

A South Korean art troupe rehearses for its performance in Pyongyang at East Pyongyang Grand Theatre on April 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

The North Korean leader was seen watching the show and clapping while sitting in the center of the second floor seats, according to the show's cast members. Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju sat next to South Korean culture minister Do Jong-whan.

The performance began at 6:50 p.m. (South Korean time), about one hour later than scheduled due to Kim's surprise attendance.

His sister Kim Yo-jung and Kim Yong-nam, the North's ceremonial head of state, were also present at the concert amid a thawing of inter-Korean ties driven by North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

In celebration of the Winter Games in the South, North Korea sent not only athletes and cheerleaders but also an art troupe and a taekwondo demonstration team. The art troupe called the Samjiyon Orchestra staged a concert in Gangneung on South Korea's east coast and another one in Seoul.

On Friday, the two Koreas agreed to hold what will be the third inter-Korean summit following meetings in 2000 and 2007 at the border village of Panmunjom on April 27.

North Korean audiences clap and wave their hands during a performance by a 160-strong South Korean art troupe at East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in Pyongyang on April 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

Under the title "Spring Comes," 11 famous South Korean artists or groups -- Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee, Choi Jin-hee, Yoon Do-hyun, Baek Ji-young, Red Velvet, Jungin, Seohyun, Ali, Kang San-eh and jazz pianist Kim Kwang-min -- performed 26 songs transcending the inter-Korean border and generations.

North Korean audiences cheered and applauded in response to the intense sound and appealing voices of the South Korean performers.

"I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't even see the score," Choi Hee-seon, a guitarist in Cho Yong-pil's band, told reporters after the performance.

"They applauded far louder than we expected, and we saw them sing along with songs YB (Yoon Do-hyun Band) performed. So, all these made us relaxed. We appreciated the loud applause from the audience," Yeri of Red Velvet said.

Including the art troupe, a 190-strong South Korean artistic delegation led by Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Do arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday for a four-day visit. The delegation also includes a 20-member team of taekwondo performers and 10 staff members, reporters and government officials, and they traveled aboard two chartered flights via a direct air route from Seoul.

Singer Cho Yong-pil rehearses for the South Korean art troupe's performance in Pyongyang at East Pyongyang Grand Theatre on April 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

Sunday's concert began with a magical hologram performance embodying the title "Spring Comes" and a lyrical piano performance by Kim Kwang-min. Then Jungin and Ali sang their own songs, "Uphill" and "Pungpung," respectively, before performing an old Korean folk song, "Face," as a duet.

"I didn't know if I would be able to keep my promise this early, and I'm really happy to keep my promise this spring," Seohyun, the show's host, said while opening the show. "A flower of hope is blooming in inter-Korean relations."

The 26-year-old star from the popular idol group Girls' Generation made a surprise collaboration with North Korean singers during the Samjiyon Orchestra's performance in Seoul.

Cho Yong-pil, who previously performed in the North in front of a crowd of 7,000, returned to a Pyongyang stage with The Great Birth, the band that he has been with for about 40 years.

He performed "Cafe of the Winter," which was known to be one of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's favorite songs, and a medley of three of his hit songs -- "Dream," "Short Hair" and "Let's Go Travel."

Choi Jin-hee sang "Love Maze," her 1984 megahit, which was also reported to be Kim Jong-il's favorite, while Red Velvet introduced globally hot K-pop music through its latest hits "Red Flavor" and "Bad Boy."

A South Korean art troupe rehearses for its performance in Pyongyang at East Pyongyang Grand Theatre on April 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

Seohyun performed "Greenish Willow Tree," a very popular North Korean song by late singer Kim Kwang-sook. The title both symbolizes spring and the North's capital, also known as "Ryugyong," a Korean word meaning "the capital of willow trees."

Following the song, all the cast members sang Cho Yong-pil's "Dear Friend" in relay, and then sang the North Korean song "See You Again" and the common Korean song "Our Wish is Reunification" in unison for the finale.

They received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the North Korean audience and an armful of bouquets.

North Korean leader Kim shook hands with each cast member and took photos with them after the show was over, the pool report said.

He also insisted that the two Koreas should hold cultural performances more often, suggesting that there should be another event in Seoul around fall under the title "Autumn Came," according to the cast.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (2nd from L) and his wife, Ri Sol-ju (L), clap during a performance by a 160-strong South Korean art troupe at East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in Pyongyang on April 1, 2018, in this photo provided by the (North) Korean Central News Agency the following day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Ahead of the concert, the taekwondo demonstration team had an individual performance for about an hour before 2,300 North Koreans who packed the Pyongyang Taekwondo Hall. It marked the first taekwondo performance in the North by a South Korean team since 2002.

"You honestly prepared (the performance)," Choe Hwi, chairman of the North's National Sports Guidance Committee, said after watching the show. "I think it would be good if we (two Koreas) could learn from each other for further development of taekwondo."

The taekwondo team is scheduled to stage a joint performance with North Korean performers on Monday at Pyongyang Grand Theatre, while the art troupe will perform with North Korean artists at Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium on Tuesday afternoon.

The South Korean delegation will return home later that night, wrapping up its four-day trip to Pyongyang.

In this photo provided by World Taekwondo, a South Korean taekwondo demonstration team, performs in Pyongyang Taekwondo Hall on April 1, 2018. (Yonhap)

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