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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
DPRK leader Kim Jong Un last night praised a performance by a group of South Korean singers in Pyongyang as a major event “demonstrating the appearance of one nation,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Monday.
Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju made a surprise appearance at the “Spring is Coming” concert staged by South Korean performers in Pyongyang on Sunday.
South Korean K-pop group Red Velvet and Girls’ Generation member Seohyun performed alongside singers Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee, Choi Jin-hee, Yoon Do-hyun, Baek Z Young, and Ali, among others.
The concert, which took place at the 1500-capacity East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, lasted for two hours and 10 minutes and began at 1820 local time, with Seohyun – who performed alongside the DPRK’s Samjiyon Orchestra during a Seoul performance in February – serving as emcee.
Kim said the concert had brought the “spring of peace to the entire nation,” KCNA reported.
The North Korean leader also expressed his “expectation that the Pyongyang visit by the south side art troupe would mark a significant occasion of demonstrating the appearance of one nation,” the report added.
“When such good atmosphere is preserved carefully and continuously, only the beautiful spring when new buds sprout and flowers blossom and the rich autumn when the crops are abundant will always be in the way of our fellow countrymen,” he was quoted as having said in a KCNA English-language report.
The DPRK leader also reportedly proposed that more inter-Korean musical events take place in the fall, reports from the South Korean Art Performance Press Corps suggest.
“We should hold cultural and art performance frequently,” Kim reportedly told a South Korean performer. “As the South staged the concert ‘Spring is Coming,’ Let’s hold the performance ‘Autumn is Coming with Fruition’ in Seoul in the fall.”
One South Korean senior official at the event told journalists that Kim Jong Un had planned to watch a planned joint inter-Korean concert on Tuesday, but that he had decided to attend Sunday’s instead.
Kim reportedly decided to attend the concert following the example of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who attended a performance by the DPRK’s Samjiyon Orchestra’s performance in Seoul in February, the official added.
KCNA reported that the DPRK leader currently had a tight schedule, but that he had decided to make time for the concert.
“He said that as he may have no time because of his complicated political program early in April, he came to enjoy the performance of the south side art troupe he invited to visit here, though it was given late,” the report said.
South Korean pool reporters said Sunday’s concert had been rescheduled, having originally been slated to begin at 1700 local time but taking place an hour later.
Pool reporters also reported that the DPRK leader had asked the performers to convey his desire to hold another inter-Korean concert in Seoul to ROK President Moon Jae-in.
“Please tell President Moon that how great an event like this is,” Kim reportedly told performance staff. “There was a lot of interest in whether I would come to watch Red Velvet. I originally planned to come here the day after tomorrow, but I came here today after readjusting my schedule.”
“I am grateful that they bringing a gift to Pyongyang citizens.”
Kim and First Lady Ri watched the concert from a second-floor balcony, sitting alongside South Korean officials including Minister Do Jong-whan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) and singer-songwriter and producer Yoon Sang, who serves as musical director for the two concerts.
“[Kim Jong Un] showed a lot of interest while asking about songs and lyrics during the South’s performance,” Do told South Korean reporters.
Four members of the band Red Velvet performed their songs “Red Flavor” and “Bad Boy.”
Seohyun, in turn, sang the famous North Korean song, “Blue Willow Tree.” The song — which is believed to have been produced on the order of the late Kim Il Sung — provoking a “burst of applause” from the audience, according to pool reporters.
Choi Jin-hee and Cho Yong-pil – who have both previously performed in Pyongyang – sang the late leader Kim Jong Il’s favorite songs “The Maze of Love” and “The Cafe in the Winter.”
Choi has visited the North four times, while Cho held a solo concert at the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium in 2005.
After the concert, members of Red Velvet said that despite their concerns about performing in the North, the response from the audience had calmed their nerves.
“They clapped loudly than we expected and sang along,” Yeri of Red Velvet told media. “That made us relax.”
The KCNA reported that the Pyongyang concert had been “acclaimed by the audience as it made them keenly feel once again that the people in the north and the south are the fellow countrymen.”
“He said that he was deeply moved to see our people sincerely acclaiming the performance, deepening the understanding of the popular art of the south side,” the report added.
The performance finished with the song “Our wish is unification,” after which Kim shook hands with the South Korean artists and took a group photograph.
The South Korean delegation of around 190 members, led by Minister Do, arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday and will return home on Tuesday, following an inter-Korean concert set to be held at the 12,000-seat Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium in Pyongyang.
Featured Image: South Korean Art Performance Press Corps
Edited by Oliver Hotham