North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has been photographed attending a historic performance by South Korean pop stars in Pyongyang.
Kim – who was with his wife, Ri Sol-ju – is the first North Korean leader to attend a show put on by performers from the South.
The South Korean culture ministry said that Kim also met with the country’s culture minister, which appears to be confirmed by photographs taken at the event.
The South Korean culture ministry said that Kim also met with the country’s culture minister, which appears to be confirmed by photographs taken at the event
Kim – who was with his wife, Ri Sol-ju – is the first North Korean leader to attend a show put on by performers from the South
The show (pictured being rehearsed) is the latest reconciliatory gesture between the two countries in the build-up to a rare inter-Korean summit
The 120-member group – 11 musical acts as well as dancers, technicians and taekwondo artists – flew to Pyongyang on Saturday to perform concerts on Sunday as well as on Tuesday
The most closely-watched group due to perform Sunday is Red Velvet (pictured in Pyongyang), part of the South’s hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm in recent decades
South Korea had sent a 160-member troupe to the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre.
Among the acts were famous K-pop stars Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sun-hee, Choi Jin-hee, Red Velvet and Seohyun of Girls’ Generation, Yonhap reported.
Reports also claim Kim clapped his hands during the performance.
Kim reportedly insisted that the two Korean states should hold such performances more often.
It is the latest reconciliatory gesture between the two countries in the build-up to a rare inter-Korean summit.
The event – the first concert by South Korean artists in the North for more than a decade – comes as a diplomatic thaw quickens on the peninsula after months of military tensions.
The group – 11 musical acts as well as dancers, technicians and taekwondo artists – flew to Pyongyang on Saturday to perform concerts on Sunday as well as on Tuesday.
South Korean singers held a rehearsal Sunday afternoon at the 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre.
Taekwondo athletes are also expected to stage a performance in Pyongyang on Sunday before performing together with the North’s practitioners on Monday.
The rapprochement was triggered by the South’s Winter Olympics, to which the North’s leader Kim Jong-un sent athletes, cheerleaders and his powerful sister as an envoy.
Kim followed up by agreeing to a summit with the South’s President Moon Jae-in, and reportedly to another with US President Donald Trump. The young leader also met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week during his first overseas trip.
This picture from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on March 31 and released on April 1 shows South Korea’s Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan (4th L) shaking hands with his North Korean counterpart Pak Chun-nam (3rd R) at Pyongyang airport
Staff of Koryo Hotel wait to welcome the South Korean art troupe in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital
North Korean staff work at the VIP lounge of Pyongyang airport after the South Korean art troupe arrived in Pyongyang
The inter-Korean summit, the third after meetings in 2000 and 2007, will be held on April 27. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit although it is expected before the end of May.
In another sign of eased tensions, annual US-South Korean military exercises which got under way in the South Sunday will last for just one month compared to some two months normally.
This year’s drills feature fewer strategic weapons such as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Seoul’s military has said. The deployment of such powerful weaponry during past drills has frequently drawn an angry response from the North.
The most closely-watched group due to perform Sunday is Red Velvet, part of the South’s hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm in recent decades.
The five-member girlband is known for a mix of upbeat electronic music, stylish fashion and high-voltage choreography.
South Korea’s Culture Minister Do Jong-whan chats with his North Korean counterpart Pak Chun-nam after arriving in Pyongyang
Joy, one of the five members, missed the trip to Pyongyang due to her TV drama shooting schedule, their agency has said.
Despite the North’s isolation and strict restrictions on unauthorised foreign culture, backed up by prison terms, K-pop has become increasingly popular there thanks to flash drives smuggled across the border with China.
Other Seoul stars to join the concerts include Cho Yong-pil, a singer who held a solo sell-out concert in Pyongyang in 2005.
Kim’s late father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong Il, was known to be a fan of the 68-year-old singer.
Another famed singer, Choi Jin-hee, is set to perform for the fourth time in the North and to sing ‘Maze of Love’ – a pan-peninsula hit and one of the late Kim’s favourites.
President Moon attended a concert by North Korean singers in Seoul to mark the opening of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.
‘I hope that something similar will happen during this concert held in response (to the North’s Seoul concert),’ Do Jong-hwan, Seoul’s culture minister leading the delegation, told reporters in Pyongyang before the show.