North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju attended a concert put on by South Korean performers at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, Sunday.
South Korean entertainers performed in the North’s capital for the first time in 13 years, presenting a wide variety of South Korean music to the reclusive regime.
The concert, titled “Spring Comes,” was intended to signal a change in relations between the two countries ahead of an inter-Korean summit April 27, and a North Korea-United States summit planned for May.
Kim originally planned to see the South-North joint performance on April 3, but changed his mind and came to see the first concert on April 1. Due to Kim’s unexpected visit, South Korean joint press corps reporters were escorted out of the theater, except for a videographer.
South Korea’s Culture Minister Do Jong-whan said Kim showed interest and asked about South Korean songs and lyrics during the show.
Kim met with the cast after the concert, shaking hands with them and posing for photos, according to the joint press corps.
The South Koreans performing in the 1,500-seat theater were originally scheduled to go on stage at 5 p.m. (Pyongyang time), but postponed the event to 7 p.m. upon the North’s request for the convenience of audience members. It was later rescheduled for 6 p.m.
Cho Yong-pil, who returned to the North 13 years after a solo concert there in 2005, sang his hit songs “Cafe of the Winter,” “Dream” and “Short Hair.” “Cafe of the Winter” is known as a favorite of Kim Jong-un’s late father Kim Jong-il.
Kang San-ae, whose family came from North Korea, presented his songs “Raguyo” (They Said) which is about displaced Koreans and “Myeongtae” (Pollack) which features North Korean dialect.
Baek Ji-young sang her hit ballad “Like Being Shot by a Bullet,” while Choi Jin-hee performed “The Maze of Love.” Lee Sun-hee sang “Dear J,” which was performed by North Korea’s performance delegation in Gangneung and Seoul in February.
K-pop girl group Red Velvet, the youngest members of the troupe, presented “Red Flavor” and “Bad Boy.” Joy of the five-member girl group missed the historic North Korean visit due to the filming schedule of the television drama “The Great Seducer.”
Red Velvet member Yeri said the audiences clapped louder than expected and even sang along with the songs. “Their reaction edged off our tension,” Yeri told the reporters after the concert.
Jungin, Ali and pianist Kim Kwang-min also took part. Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun, who emceed the concert, sang “Blue Willow,” a famous North Korean song by Kim Kwang-sook. She also appeared with the North Korean Samjiyon Orchestra during its performance at the Seoul Arts Center in February.
The concert, which ran for 130 minutes, wrapped up with Cho’s song “Dear Friend” and two North Korean songs “Let’s Meet Again” and “Our Wish.” The veteran singer, who celebrates the 50th anniversary of his debut this year, led the melody and 10 other singers joined the stage. Yoon Sang, singer-songwriter and music director of the South Korean troupe, arranged the North Korean songs for this concert.
“I sincerely hope the South-North summit will go well and a peaceful co-existence regime will take root on the Korean Peninsula,” Minister Do told the joint press corps.
Do is the head of the 190-member troupe in the North, including singers, taekwondo practitioners, technical staff and government officials. The troupe arrived in Pyongyang in two teams, an advance team Thursday, and the rest Saturday.
He expressed further hope for the resumption of suspended inter-Korean projects, such as the publication of a unified Korean dictionary and the excavation of historic relics in Kaesong, after the PyeongChang Winter Games provided an opportunity to thaw frosty South-North relations.
“I hope national harmony will be recovered through cultural, sports, art, religious and social exchanges,” Do said.
After the Sunday show, the South Koreans will hold a joint concert with North Korean performers at the Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium on April 3.
Source: THE KOREA TIMES