North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Sunday attended the first concert in Pyongyang for over a decade by South Korean entertainers, including a K-pop girlband, the latest gesture of reconciliation before a rare inter-Korean summit.
The visit, described by many as a cultural charm offensive by the South, came as a diplomatic thaw quickens on the peninsula after months of tensions.
The 120-member group — 11 musical acts as well as dancers, technicians and martial artists — gave one concert on Sunday with another set for Tuesday.
Kim and his wife, a former singer herself, came to watch Sunday’s show, making him the first leader of the North to attend a concert by South Korean performers.
Kim shook hands and took photos with the stars backstage, saying inter-Korean cultural events should be held more often and suggesting another event in the South Korean capital this autumn, pool reports said.
The young couple were seen clapping their hands during the two-hour event — also attended by Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, and ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam.
“Please tell (South Korean) President Moon Jae-in how great an event like this is… I am grateful for a gift like this (concert) to the people of Pyongyang,” Kim told visiting Seoul officials.
Kim also showed “great interest in the songs and lyrics (of South Korean singers) during the concert,” Do Jong-hwan, Seoul’s culture chief and the head of the delegation, told reporters.
The South’s taekwondo athletes also staged a performance before an audience of 2,300 in Pyongyang on Sunday ahead of a joint display of the Korean martial art with the North’s practitioners on Monday.
The ongoing rapprochement was triggered by the South’s Winter Olympics, to which the North’s leader Kim Jong Un sent athletes, cheerleaders and his sister as an envoy.
Sunday’s concert to a packed audience at the elaborately decorated 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre ended with a standing ovation after a finale in which all the stars appeared on stage to sing a song about unification.
The 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre was the venue for the concert on Sunday
Before the concert, even the leader Kim joked: “There was so much interest in whether I’d come to see Red Velvet or not.”
The five-member girlband — known for its signature K-pop mix of upbeat electronic music, stylish fashion and high-voltage choreography — performed two of their hits, “Bad Boy” and “Red Flavour”.