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Home / World / K-pop time: S. Koreans fly to Pyongyang for rare concerts

K-pop time: S. Koreans fly to Pyongyang for rare concerts

SEOUL, South Korea – From the aging crooners to the bubbly K-pop starlets, some of South Korea's biggest pop stars flew to North Korea on Saturday to show rare performances that have thwarted the thawing of inter-Korean relations after years of tensions over the US Reveals North's Nuclear Ambitions

The Pyongyang Sunday and Tuesday concerts are preceded by a historic summit between North Korean President Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a border village on April 27. The meeting will precede A planned summit meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump in May could prove to be important for the global diplomatic drive to resolve the dispute over the North's nuclear weapons and missile program.

The 1

20 group flown to Pyongyang also included the government's official, reporter and taekwondo demonstration team, which will be performing in Pyongyang on Sunday and Monday. Another team of 70 South Korean technicians traveled to Pyongyang on Thursday to set up equipment.

A look at the singers who made the trip and at a certain equine dance specialist who did not:



North Korea had society and culture in stormy times of the South is called a "corrupt bourgeois lifestyle". Nevertheless, the Pyongyang concerts were not the first time that Southern pop singers across the border were performing.

It's the second trip for the iconic Cho Yong-pil, perhaps South Korea's most influential musician of the last 50 years. He gave a solo concert in Pyongyang in 2005 in an earlier era of rapprochement between rivals.

"It will be pleasant to perform in the north to perform in the south," said the 68-year-old singer on Saturday at a press conference at South Korea's Gimpo Airport. "There is no reason for me or other singers to be nervous, we all have finished the rehearsals and will have a fun and enjoyable time to show our music."

Seoul does not have the titles of the songs of South Korean artists officially announced. Cho's "Dear Friend," a ballad about a long-lost friend who received an enthusiastic response from the Pyongyang crowd 13 years ago, will almost certainly be one of them.

It would be the third North Korean idea for any woman to be the relatively well-known in the North for ballads Choi Jin-hee and Lee Sun-hee.

61-year-old Choi is likely to sing her biggest hit "Maze of Love," which is said to have been a favorite of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the late father of current leader Kim. Lee, who still has the best whistle in the industry at age 53, sings "To J", one of several South Korean songs played by North Korean musicians at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

"I hope we can create a stage where we can create an emotional connection and convey the warm feelings between the South and the North," said Choi at the airport.



That will not be all the slow ballads in Pyongyang. It will be interesting to see the North Koreans react to the girl band Red Velvet, which is currently one of the most popular acts in the highly competitive K-pop scene.

The genre, which has a large following throughout Asia, has been defined by synthesized music, powerful visuals and dance moves, and teasing sexuality. South Korea's military has been using K-pop for psychological warfare in recent years, chasing it out of loudspeakers along the heavily armored border between rivals.

"Happiness, Hello, it's Red Velvet!" Band member Seulgi roared happily at the airport. "We are the 'Maknae' (the youngest of the group), so we will make sure we bring our bright energy north," the 24-year-old said.

K-pop groups have previously played in North Korea. The now disbanded Six Kies and Fin.KL sang and danced in 1999 in Pyongyang, as did the Boygroup Shinhwa in 2003. Some of the artists later said that the audience's response was embarrassing and quiet.

Red Velvet could find a better reception more than a decade later, as the cultural taste is changing even in isolated North Korea. The most popular music program of the North is Kim Jong Us Handpicked Moranbong Girl Band, whose members often play suggestive shimmies in short skirts with electric guitars.

Park Hyeong-il, an official at the South Korean Association Ministry, said North Korean officials showed no discomfort about Red Velvet and also had no problem with the "red" on behalf of the band.

Red Velvet is originally a five-piece band, but only four made the trip to Pyongyang – 22- One-year Joy stayed in South Korea to do a soap opera.



Despite the constant questioning of reporters, South Korean officials offer no clear explanation as to why PSY, the singer of "Gangnam Style" was excluded from the concert cast.

South Korean Ministry of Culture spokesman Hwang Seong-un said without stating that the YouTube rapper was originally considered for the Pyongyang events before he was expelled. He said he could not confirm a media report that North Korean officials had turned down PSY.

"What I can say is that we were looking for ways to involve him, but it did not work," said Hwang. "We hope there will be better opportunities for him in the future."

It is possible that officials from the North or the South came to the conclusion that PSY's bizarre humor and highly sexualized music would be too provocative for the North Korean public. It's not that North Korea completely ignored the global Gangnam style trend. In September 2012, the North posted a video of a PSY figure with a horse wearing a photo of the face of conservative South Korean presidential candidate Park Geun-hye on his Uriminzokkiri website. The text had the satirically defensive character of Park's deceased father, the anti-communist dictator Park Chung-hee.

Park continued to win the Presidential race, but was forced out of office in March last year due to a corruption scandal.



The South Korean singers will perform at the 1,500-pax East Pyongyang Theater on Sunday and then perform at a 12,000-fold concert on Tuesday with North Korean artists – based in Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong High School

It is unclear whether North Korean leader Kim will appear in one of these performances. His presence in the South would be seen as a fitting response to Moon's participation in the North Korean performances in February. But in recent years, Kim has been accused by Seoul of severely punishing and even executing North Korean officials and people who privately consumed South Korean popular culture.

South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers in 2014 that North Korea had used firing squads to execute 10 officials this year for bribing or watching South Korean TV dramas.


Follow Kim Tong-hyung on Twitter at @KimTongHyung

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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