K-pop stars are doing their thing - and their share - in possibly improving relations between the two Koreas as they lead a group of South Korean musicians to Pyongyang for cross-border cultural performances ahead of next month’s rare inter-Korean summit.
The contingent is large consisting of 120-members including top girl band Red Velvet, who flew from Seoul’s Gimpo airport aboard a chartered civilian flight destined for Pyongyang through the rarely-used direct air route between the neighbors. The performance trip is a good signal for the two parties as efforts for rapprochement on the peninsula gathers pace.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">✈️ Red Velvet at Gimpo International Airport earlier today off to Pyongyang, North Korea for an event <a href="https://twitter.com/RVsmtown?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RVsmtown</a> <a href="https://t.co/gAkCC1tdVd">pic.twitter.com/gAkCC1tdVd</a></p>— The Seoul Story (@theseoulstory) <a href="https://twitter.com/theseoulstory/status/979933611075006464?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 31, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Using the theme “Spring is Coming”, the South Korean musical contingent will perform a concert in Pyongyang on Sunday before a joint show with North Korean artists at the large 12,000-seat capacity Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium on Tuesday.
The musicians set to perform in Pyongyang include singers and bands from various genres, ranging from traditional folk songs to the trendier and hugely popular K-pop. Influential 68-year-old singer Cho Yong-pil will also be there who is no longer a stranger to Pyongyang having performed there in 2005. Choi Jin-hee, 61, will also join the performers. She has already performed in the North in 1999, 2002 and 2005.
More prominently, Choi’s 1984 mega-hit song “Love Maze” was said to be a personal favorite of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong II. The song is also popular in the North as it is often played in restaurants, although the romantic lyrics were changed to adulation of their leader.
Red Velvet will take on the stage where the North’s own mega girl band, Moranbong band famous for their fast-paced patriotic songs, reign supreme. Many North Korean defectors say that despite government’s repression, many North Korean residents managed to watch famous South Korean TV dramas and heard K-pop music through black market-obtained USB drives despite the ban on such stuff previously described by the North Korean regime as “decadent capitalist culture.”
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sneak peak of Red Velvet performance at the Pyongyang concert in North Korea <a href="https://t.co/qJ1kYWKPVq">pic.twitter.com/qJ1kYWKPVq</a></p>— Bertha Tweet Services 📮 (@SixHate) <a href="https://twitter.com/SixHate/status/980197663000989696?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 31, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
South Korean Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan who led the performing artists contingent said: “This performance in Pyongyang will add momentum to inter-Korean exchanges and operations that resumed with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.”
Do is also expected to meet with North Korean officials in Pyongyang to discuss more possibilities for cultural and sports exchanges between the two Koreas that have just started following a decade-long cold hiatus.
Until recently bitter rivals, the two Koreas on Friday have agreed to an April 27 date for the inter-Korean summit to be held at Panmunjom truce village on the heavily-guarded border. It will only be the third ever of its kind after similar 2000 and 2007 meetings.