N. Korea team concludes historic South trip

AFP
South Korean President Moon Jae-in sat next to the sister of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un yesterday at a concert in Seoul by musicians from Pyongyang.
AFP
AFP

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a Pyongyang Samjiyon Orchestra concert at a Seoul theater yesterday. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sat next to the sister of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un yesterday at a concert in Seoul by musicians from Pyongyang.

The show was the final set-piece element of the North Korean delegation’s landmark visit, the diplomatic highlight of the Olympics-driven rapprochement between the two halves of the peninsula, before the North Koreans flew home.

They have shared kimchi and soju with Moon, sat in the same box at the Olympics opening ceremony and cheered a unified women’s ice hockey team together.

Kim on Saturday invited Moon to a summit in North Korea, an offer extended by his sister and special envoy Kim Yo Jong, who made history as the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit South Korea since the Korean War.

Moon did not immediately accept the invitation but said he hopes the “right conditions” will be created so it can go ahead.

The show by Pyongyang’s Samjiyon Orchestra featured a surprise appearance by Seohyun, of top South Korean K-pop girlband Girls Generation. 

It was part of a cross-border deal in which North Korea sent hundreds of athletes, cheerleaders and others to the Pyeongchang Winter Games in the South.

At an earlier dinner with senior Seoul officials, Kim Yo Jong said she found the two Koreas still had much in common despite decades of separation.

Before flying south, she said, she had expected “things would be very different and unfamiliar,” according to a statement from Moon’s office.

“But it turned out that there were many things similar and in common,” she went on. “I hope that the day we become one will be brought forward.”

The North’s presence has dominated the headlines in the early days of the Olympics, with all eyes turning to Swiss-educated Kim Yo Jong, believed to be 30, who is among her brother’s closest confidantes.

Yesterday’s 100-minute concert — the orchestra’s second and final show — included about 40 songs, among them South Korean pop hits as well as North Korean and other world music.

At one point Hyon Song Wol, the leader of the North’s popular Moranbong girlband, took the stage to perform a unification-themed song.

Public interest in the show was huge, with nearly 120,000 people applying for just 1,000 tickets.

Civilian contact is strictly banned between the two Koreas, which have been divided since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Tensions soared last year as the North staged a series of nuclear and missile tests in violation of United Nations resolutions, while leader Kim and United States President Donald Trump traded colorful insults and threats of war.

Moon has long sought engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, and for months has promoted Pyeongchang as a “peace Olympics.”


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